The danger of keeping secrets drives the plot(s) of The Downstairs Neighbor. British author Helen Cooper weaves multiple story lines into one suspenseful search for a missing teenager. Freya Harlow has disappeared without much to go on. The story spins forward with a simple piece of dialogue-an officer asking if either parent has enemies. Both Paul and Steph are shaken by the question as both have buried their respective pasts.
The Harlow’s live above two other apartments. Emma has her own past to hide including the recent departure of Zeb. The young man many believe is her partner, is her son, just fifteen years her junior.
In the basement, nurse Vicky and husband Chris live unhappily. His tie to the missing girl is the strongest of the downstairs neighbors. As her driving instructor, he was the last to see Freya alive.
Layout of Downstairs Neighbor
Cooper uses all of the major players to tell the story. The rotation between characters draws the readers into the multi-faceted plot. The individual narratives leave one hanging, wanting more details of the current thread. Yet, each intrigue pulls the plot forward.
Furthermore, the secrets the characters carry create a need to uncover the truth. Adding to the mystery is a storyline from twenty-five years ago. The theme is strongest in Kate’s narrative as a parent’s desire to protect her child from the truth takes on horrendous consequences. But who is Kate?
Freya and downstairs neighbor Zeb are both rebellious teens. On the cusp of adulthood, neither can understand the complexities of life. They have reached the age where truth is shrouded in grey. And so, the disappearance of Freya is muddied by the secrets of her parents and of each of the downstairs neighbors.
Recommendation for The Downstairs Neighbor
I thoroughly enjoyed The Downstairs Neighbor. And any American reader will have no trouble absorbing the British elements of the story. This suspenseful book is for anyone high school aged and up who enjoys mysteries.