Review of ‘The Apartment Upstairs’ by Lesley Kara

I really enjoyed Lesley Kara’s previous novels, The Rumour, Who Did You Tell? and The Dare. Her new novel is quite different from these and I’m sad to report that I was disappointed.

There are two main characters we follow, both narrated in the third person. Scarlett is reeling from the murder of her aunt in the flat (or apartment, as Americans say) upstairs from her. The murder is already solved but her family are acting strangely about her aunt’s possessions. Meanwhile, Dee is a funeral director who meets Scarlett to arrange a service for her aunt. Dee is still grieving for the disappearance of her friend Gina ten years ago and is involved with an awareness campaign to find new evidence. These two mysteries begin to collide.

There were some elements of the book that I liked. Scarlett has ME and chronic fatigue, the impact of which are explored in the narrative. As with an epileptic character in The Dare, I liked that the author was raising awareness. The inclusion of funeral directors was an unusual choice and sensitively portrayed. The story took a while for me to get into because so many characters were mentioned at the beginning, but once it got going then I was interested to know what would happen, if not completely gripped.

I felt that the genre was murder mystery, rather than psychological thriller. It was just different from what I’d expected, with no surprising twists until the end and not as much suspense. The narrative perspectives were problematic for me, as they were similar styles which I occasionally confused and I felt distanced from the characters I was supposed to root for. The storytelling could have benefited from a first person narrative or something else to make it feel more dynamic. Also, the coronavirus pandemic was present in the last chapter. I prefer my fiction reading without mentions of lockdown, masks and social distancing. I don’t see why pandemic life had to creep into the ending when it wasn’t relevant to the story.

In summary, I found it a disappointing fourth novel but I’m still open to reading the next one.

Thank you to the publisher Transworld for the advance copy via NetGalley. The book will be published on 23rd June.

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