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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Review: Other People's Houses

Other People's Houses
Author: Kelli Hawkins

Publisher: 3rd March 2021 by HarperCollins Publishers Australia

Pages:326 pages

How I Read It: ARC book

Genre: General Fiction (Adult) | Mystery & Thrillers | Women's Fiction

My Rating: 4 crowns


The perfect house. The perfect family. Too good to be true.

Kate Webb still grieves over the loss of her young son. Ten years on, she spends her weekends hungover, attending open houses on Sydney's wealthy north shore and imagining the lives of the people who live there.

Then Kate visits the Harding house - the perfect house with, it seems, the perfect family. A photograph captures a kind-looking man, a beautiful woman she knew at university, and a boy - a boy that for one heartbreaking moment she believes is her own son.

When her curiosity turns to obsession, she uncovers the cracks that lie beneath a glossy facade of perfection, sordid truths she could never have imagined.

But is it her imagination? As events start to spiral dangerously out of control, could the real threat come from Kate herself?

My Thoughts

Admit it! We all dream about living in a fancy house and wonder what the life of its occupants to be. Well, put that premise on steroids by mixing in a mystery thriller and you have a super crime debut from Kelli that kept me turning the pages to the very end. 

‘The front door loomed, with all its promises. Promises of lives lived, of children growing and grown, of nightly dinners around a kitchen table. Of scuff marks on walls and broken light fittings and empty picture hooks. Everyday stuff. Family life.’

Set in Sydney, the plot follows Kate each weekend as she trudges around to open homes often ‘lifting’ a small memento from each. Kate is suffering terribly after the ‘tragic accident’ that occured ten years previous with the death of her then five year old son, Sascha. With one particular home, she becomes obsessed not only with the house but also the people and the seemingly perfect lives of the father, mother and son. It could have been her. Should have been her. What she does find upon further investigation, however, upsets her and sets her on a path of no return. There are flashback chapters that slowly deliver the life Kate led before the accident and puzzle pieces that Kelli invites you to move around in your minds eye. 

‘Entering that house, I’d  experienced an actual burst of real happiness for the first time since Sascha died. There was something about it that was so open and welcoming I immediately pictured what it might have been like to live there. What my life might have been.’

In many ways Kate was a difficult character to like despite the tragedy she had to endure. Everything from her alcoholism to irrational actions - often driven by drink - could leave the reader perplexed. I found myself questioning the state of her overall health, for example, if her drinking and bad diet had been that prolific for ten years - yet I suspended it all in favour of a mystery that engaged me and challenged me to read to the very end in an afternoon. You will, of course, have your suspicions, yet Kelli delivers a writing style with a plot full of twists and turns that you cannot help but rush to find out exactly how things will end up with Kate’s obsessive behaviour. I definitely recommend reading Other People’s Houses for lovers of this genre. 

‘People make mistakes, Kate. We forgive them. We move on with our lives.’  ‘You make it sound so simple.’  ‘It is. Look, I’m not saying it’s not hard. It’s bloody hard. But we make choices. The people in your life are in it because they want to be. It’s that simple.’ 

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This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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