The New Neighbor by Leah Stewart

You know it is a good book when you stay up way past your bedtime to finish reading it because you just have to know how it ends. That was my situation last night with The New Neighbor by Leah Stewart. This thought provoking and suspenseful novel is about an old woman's curiosity turned into a dangerous obsession as she becomes involved in her new neighbor's complicated and cloaked life. Mystery and intrigue build as each chapter unfolds and I could not put it down.

Set on a Tennessee mountaintop, the first few chapters seem interesting enough. Ninety-year-old Margaret Riley is content hiding from the world and reads mystery novels all day. (And, yes, she borrows those mystery books from her local library). She loves her home, on the shores of a beautiful pond nestled in the woods, with the closest house located on the other side of the pond. The house has been empty for quite some time, so imagine Margaret's surprise when she steps outside one morning to enjoy a cup of coffee on her deck and spots a young woman standing on the deck of the house across the water. Should she wave? Will the woman wave back? After a few tries, she finally receives a return wave from the young woman, who then immediately goes back inside her house. Perhaps it has something to do with reading all those mysteries, but Margaret is instantly intrigued with the woman and sets out to find out who she is and why she is there. But, Jennifer Young has moved into that house across the pond with her four-year-old son, Milo, looking to hide away from her old life and maintain her privacy. Her husband is dead and her own daughter accused her of killing him. In order to keep custody of Milo, Jennifer packed up in the middle of the night and ended up in this remote part of Tennessee. With alternating chapters, both Margaret's and Jennifer's stories unfold. Margaret finds out, while shopping at the grocery store in town, that Jennifer is a massage therapist. She uses that information as an excuse to contact Jennifer and eventually get her to visit. At each massage appointment a little bit more is revealed from each of their pasts. Margaret was an army nurse in World War II and offers Jennifer $100 per hour to write down the memories from that compelling and horrific time in her life. What should bring the two women closer manages to make them more suspicious of each other instead.

There are other characters in the book with their own side stories which adds to the intrigue of this novel. Every chapter reveals a little bit more of each characters' lives and I could not stop reading. Did Jennifer kill her husband? What secret has Margaret been hiding all these years? When Margaret does the unthinkable and contacts someone from Jennifer's former life, the book comes to a climactic end. Readers who enjoy Lisa Scottoline might like this one, or those who liked Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.


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