After his dad took off leaving young Andrew Morrison in the dubious care of his agoraphobic alcoholic mother, he had to fend for both her and himself. At twenty-three, Andrew was fed up, quit his dead end job, left home and moved in with childhood friend Mickey who he hasn’t seen for several years. The perfect neighborhood with manicured yards and white picket fences was marred by Mickey’s derelict excuse for a home. Andrew set about cleaning up the place and trying to make a new start while dreaming of life within the walls of his perfect next-door neighbors Red and Harlow.
Starting with a plate of fresh baked cookies, the starched, very proper and fetching Harlow sets about drawing Andrew to her as Red subtly tries to keep him at a distance. Andrew is puzzled by the obvious feud between Mickey and his stellar neighbors but figures he’ll be able to smooth things out between them, little realizing Mickey’s real role. By the time he figures things out and realizes there is a dark side to those oh-so-perfect neighbors, it may be too late to escape.
At one hundred seventy five pages, this rather twisted thriller could almost qualify as a novella. Ahlborn has done an excellent job of setting up the characters at the beginning which makes revelations about Harlow’s true nature more chilling. One simply doesn’t expect a Stepford wife to be a psychopath with two enablers in tow. While this quick read delivers an interesting if rather bare bones tale, there was ample room to ramp up the tension and terror. Instead, Ahlborn has kept the story as more of a psychological thriller and it works.