The Heights by Louise Candlish
Published by Atria Books
Publication date: March 1, 2022
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense
What was a peaceful extended family dynamic turns dark in Louise Candlish’s new novel, The Heights. Ellen is married to Justin, raising their daughter Freya, but she also shares custody of her teenage son, Lucas, with her ex, Vic. The arrangement is amicable for all involved. Until one tragic event shatters not just the perfect picture of their lives, but the frame around it.
Candlish applies a frame to the novel as well. The Heights is formatted as a newspaper feature about a victims’ rights writing class designed to help those impacted by serious crime release their emotions. Ellen is the participant the paper covers. In this way, the reader steps in even closer to read Ellen’s story in her own words.
A story that opens when Ellen, working with a client in their apartment, sees a man in another apartment across the way. A young man, Kieran Watt, who infiltrated her family, leading to the irreparable damage that upended their lives. Years earlier Ellen had done everything in her power to ensure he faced justice, but even when that came it was not enough. She escalated her actions publicly and then privately until he disappeared, leaving her to return to some semblance of a normal life.
Now, Ellen is obsessed again. While she previously had the support of her family, they’re not as invested anymore, wanting simply to move on and let go. This leaves Ellen on her own to pursue the Old Testament definition of justice she believes Kieran deserves. This results in an exorbitantly dramatic ending, but Candlish handles the pace in The Heights in a way that keeps it from feeling outlandish.
All of this could be tension enough, but Candlish turns The Heights into a deeper novel of perception by switching the novel’s second part to Vic’s point of view. Past and present are now shared, with Ellen and Vic providing a point/counterpoint narrative in alternating parts. The result is a psychological tour de force probing the complexities of parenting, co-parenting, guilt, and grief.
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*I received a free copy of this book from Atria Books in exchange for an honest review.*