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Come a Little Closer

Length: 11 hrs and 36 mins

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Publisher's Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

Leah is in love. It should be the happiest summer of her life, but she can't help feeling lonely with Jake's attention divided between her, his ex-wife and his young son. As insomnia sets in, the walls of their new basement flat feel as if they're closing in around her. 

Until she meets her upstairs neighbour, Anton, who has recently moved back in after a long absence from the street. He's a sympathetic ear when Jake can't be, and even though others on the street seem strangely hostile towards him, Leah soon comes to rely on Anton and their secret conversations in the night. 

Leah has no idea that 15 years before, Anton was convicted of killing his wife. A wife who looked a little bit like Leah. He has always said he didn't do it. 

Is Leah his redemption? Or is she befriending a killer intent on luring her closer and closer? 

©2019 Karen Perry (P)2019 Penguin Audio

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  • Podenco Fan
  • 09-01-19

Curate's Egg of a Thriller

Karen Perry ( pen name of Dublin-based authors Paul Perry and Karen Gillece) has always been hit and miss for me I liked "Girl Unknown", I loved "Can You Keep a Secret" but found the narrator appalling and I tried and failed to enjoy or finish "Your Closest Friend" and "The Boy Who Never Was" but I thought I would give this latest offering a try.

I found it slow to get into but then it picked up for a while, secrets were revealed and tension built around the time honoured suspense of "Did he do it?" reminiscent of "Guilty as Sin" and "Jagged Edge" although this version is non courtroom and is set after release from prison . It was a great premise and introduced well, though I feel there was more scope for making more of this especially through character development.

It was around this time when I began to get sidetracked by the very weird performance of one of the three narrators - the one who voices the character Hilary. Now I am not sure if Hilary is supposed to be insufferable but Julia Winwood made her impossible to like through her interpretation. This narrator's accent veered from Dublin to Liverpool, from Midlands to West Country burr and beyond, sometimes all in one sentence. At times it seemed like she was making comedy style thick accents for characters but then they would continue after the character had stopped speaking. It is hard to know if she was actually playing it for laughs but the effect was just so distracting as her accents blew every which way from Dublin Street Trader to the piratey arrrrrrrrs of Captain Birdseye. I am not sure if Julia Winwood is in fact Irish, at times her accent did seem authentic but the way she could not sustain it for long without it changing and the way she could not keep her character's voices from bleeding into the commentary and vice versa makes me think that her Irish accents are not her own.
This would be even more of a puzzle as to why she was cast as I really have never heard such a weird mishmash of random accents and with so many actors with genuine native Irish accents, let alone great storytelling and acting talents.

This became even more of an issue because as the tension mounted more and more of the story seemed to be told by "Hilary" and while she was more bearable at 1.25 speed I had to switch back for the other slightly wimpy and light female character "Leah" as she became totally whittery at the increased speed. In fairness I have heard Aoife McMahon do good performances in other audio books and she was by far the best of the three. I also found Anton's character, who was meant to be charming to sound more gruff and creepy so really I think the whole book could have been improved with different narrators to breath more likeable life into the characters. There are so very many talented female Irish actors like Caroline Lennon, who do amazing audible narrations and a plethora of attractively voiced male Irish actors that I find this casting almost as bad of a crime than the ones in the book. It is such a terrible shame as whoever is responsible for production and casting of Karen Perry audiobooks has really done their best to sabotage these well written books but I suppose, at least Grainne Gillis was not given another outing after the cringeworthy "Can You Keep a Secret" debacle.

It is also a pity that the sample you hear is of Aoife McMahon, who is by far the most likeable of the three narrators and if I had heard Hilary or Anton instead of Leah's character I might not have bothered to even have given it a go.

Narration aside, it was a 4 star thriller, good premise, plot twists. a slight nod to "Rebecca" and also to the Guilty/Innocent genre, characters could have done with being less superficial and more likeble and credible. Also some of Anton's actions seemed to make no sense like the bath and wine bottle episodes which seemed not really to have been logical or believable though the sim card move was a chilling skillful touch and I did like the reveal on his modus operandi and what was behind it.
So while it had the potential to be a real cracker it just was so much less than it could have been and I think a good editor could have just helped to bring it all into sharper focus and make it into a far cleverer, sleeker and likeable book.
Even the setting of lovely seaside Dún Laoghaire in South County Dublin was never made to shine and the storytelling never gave me really good glimpse of the house so much of the action takes place in.
The character Charlotte is another example of a wasted opportunity as she could have had so much more depth and intrigue built around her which would have made the whole plot make so much more sense and be so much more resonant. So basically for me, whether through the infuriating accent switching narration of hideous Hilary, the wimpy twittering Leah, unappealing, charmless Anton or the lack of compelling and convincing storytelling made the whole thing just a waste of the sum of its parts.
It could have been brilliant ............ it was so much better than most thrillers out there but the narration, lack of final polish which made the book fall so far short of its potential just left me feeling disappointed.

Authors who I feel have really gone 5 stars and beyond in some or all of their books are Ruth Ware, Caz Frear, Fiona Barton, Clare Mackintosh, Emily Bar, Louise Candlish, JP Delaney, Jane Casey, Lucy Foley, Lisa Jewell, Kate McQuaile, Dorothy Koomson, Sarah Alderson, Jessica Vallance, Sabine Durrant, Aga Lesiewicz, and Sarah J. Naughton to name just a few and this book was sadly a full star or more behind these authors' best offerings.

It's not that it is bad, it just could have been so so so much better as a book and I believe top class narration could have also saved it, but instead it is all just a bit lacklustre, musty and drab - much like Anton's house.

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  • S.D. Breen
  • 09-08-19

Irritating in several ways

Alarm bells started ringing for me very early on. Mark's father, Anton, is newly released from prison after 19 years inside. Mark phones his father on the newly-connected landline. Mark expresses surprise that the landline is connected so soon. Two questions: 1) how come is Mark ringing the landline if he didn't expect it to be connected yet? 2) Even if a sensible answer exists to question 1, how on earth does Mark know the new number?

This was only one of the sloppy bits of editorial failure. There were many. Some more examples: Anton's house is, supposedly, untouched inside since his imprisonment 19 years earlier. From the descriptions, it sounds as if he'd been away for no longer than a two-week holiday. There is a baby-grand piano in the house - again, untouched since Anton's wife's murder twenty years earlier. Miraculously, it is still in perfect condition and in perfect tune.

Anton's attitude towards the new basement tenant, Leah, is decidedly creepy and lecherous right from the start, not least because he is 60 and Leah is only 26. From the moment he first sees her, he's deliberately manipulative, approaching her in strategic ways designed to break down her defences and leave her open to his predatory intentions. Yet halfway through the book, his attraction towards Leah seems to come as a big surprise to Anton himself. I wondered whether the author had, at this point, realised that Anton's creepiness had perhaps made him a little too unsympathetic for the readers, so decided to backpedal on his cold, calculating aspects...either that, or it was yet another careless inconsistency.

I was also unconvinced by Leah's apparent lack of curiosity and/or suspicion about Anton's long absence, the fate of his wife, the cheapness of the rent, Leah's boyfriend's long and unexplained absences, the neighbours' ostracisation of Anton and the targeting of the house by vandals. Anyone would think that the novel were set in pre-internet times, or that Leah, age 26, had never heard of Google.

All of the above was enough to put me off the book altogether. I stopped listening halfway through, fed up with the unsympathetic and non-credible characters and the cavalier approach to practical details which undermine the whole integrity of the novel. Maybe it improves vastly in the second half, and my lack of patience means I've missed a treat; but by the time I'd got halfway through, I'd ceased to care.