By Kylie Kaden

Publisher/Year: Pantera Press/2022

Publisher blurb

Behind the tall hedges of the affluent, gated community of Apple Tree Creek, not all is as it seems.

Out of the blue, Gertie’s husband decides they need a break and leaves her with their three children. Two streets east and three gardens down, successful businesswoman Rachael discovers that her husband has cheated on her – again – even though she is pregnant with his third child. Thrown together by a chance encounter, the two women bond over the shared disaster that is their marriages.

When one of their husbands is attacked, and ambulance sirens cut through the serenity of manicured gardens and cobblestone streets, the small community is shocked at the violence that’s played out in their midst. CCTV reveals no outsiders visited the estate that night, confirming that the assailant must be one of their own.

As the web of neighbourly relationships unravels and the secrets of Apple Tree Creek are exposed. One question will be asked: which one of us is willing to kill?

Reviewer: Lesley Vick

This sometimes darkly funny thriller focusses on two families in an exclusive gated community. The pristine estate of Apple Tree Creek seems perfect – lush gardens, manicured lawns and safety ensured by CCTV cameras everywhere. But behind the hedges all is not well.

The story begins with a man lying in a pool of blood having been stabbed. Who is he? The narrative then shifts to the past where secrets are uncovered that led to this event and the victim’s identity is revealed.

Gertie and Ed do not fit comfortably into this wealthy environment. They won their house in a raffle and are not as rich as their affluent, privileged neighbours. Their marriage seems solid but, with no warning, Ed informs Gertie that they need a break and, he has accepted a posting overseas – leaving her with their children. Gertie is shocked, confused and resentful. She meets a near neighbour, Rachel, a successful businesswoman who is having her own struggles with her marriage. Rachel is heavily pregnant with her third child and has discovered that her husband, a serial philanderer and controlling personality, has cheated on her again. Should she call an end to the marriage?

Confronted with their respective dilemmas and enraged with their untrustworthy husbands these two very different women bond in a mutually supportive friendship. Their struggles are well documented by the author. Not only do they have to deal with their marital problems and personal insecurities but, they are grappling with parenting issues arising in relation to demanding newborn babies and recalcitrant teenage children. What are these adolescents doing online in their rooms for hours? How do you cope with a special needs child? How is the drone being used? Readers will identify with these experiences.

The investigation of the stabbing at the beginning of the book also reveals further information about the whole community. The CCTV coverage makes it clear that no-one outside entered the enclave so the perpetrator of the crime must come from within the Apple Tree Creek estate. Apart from Gertie and Rachel and their compelling concerns, it becomes obvious that other residents and neighbours are concealing secrets – ranging from investment schemes gone wrong to obsessive former lovers – some of which also give them a motive for the stabbing. The book also includes some incisively amusing commentary from some residents about other residents of the exclusive estate.

The characters are well-drawn and believable. The unravelling of secrets maintains the suspense throughout, with a clever and unexpected twist at the end. This is an engrossing and very successful thriller.

One of Us – Pantera Press