The Heights: Book summary and reviews of The Heights by Louise Candlish

The Heights

by Louise Candlish

The Heights by Louise Candlish X
The Heights by Louise Candlish
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  • Published Mar 2022
    416 pages
    Genre: Thrillers

    Paperback Original.
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Book Summary

The author of the "masterfully plotted, compulsive page-turner" (the Guardian) Our House takes you on a haunting and nail-biting journey of tragedy and revenge.

The Heights is a tall, slender apartment building among warehouses in London. Its roof terrace is so discreet, you wouldn't know it existed if you weren't standing at the window of the flat directly opposite. But you are. And that's when you see a man up there—a man you'd recognize anywhere. He may be older now, but it's definitely him.

But that can't be because he's been dead for over two years. You know this for a fact.

Because you're the one who killed him.

With Louise Candlish's signature dark and twisty prose, The Heights shows "the ferocity of maternal love" (Hannah Beckerman, author of If Only I Could Tell You). "This cleverly constructed novel will keep readers enthralled until the last page" (Publishers Weekly, starred).

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Media Reviews

"[A] mesmerizing psychological thriller...the narrative threads cross in a heart-stopping confrontation...This cleverly constructed novel will keep readers enthralled until the last page." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Dark, disturbing, and deeply affecting, this humdinger of a story is full of unexpected twists and is sure to keep readers riveted from first page to last." - Booklist (starred review)

"In the vein of William Landay's Defending Jacob, this title is a good choice for readers who enjoy twisting narratives." - Library Journal (starred review)

"I didn't read The Heights; I inhaled it. Louise Candlish's sense of place is second to none and her attention to detail is forensic. She's absolutely at the top of her game." - Lisa Jewell

"No one creates middle-class characters we love to hate quite like Louise Candlish...What I wasn't expecting was that this thriller of obsessive revenge and intense parental grief would tug at my heartstrings. Smart, addictive, twisting, surprising. Highly recommended." - Sarah Vaughan

"The Heights has everything you could possibly wish for - tragedy, obsession, revenge and, yes, love. Another finely-crafted masterpiece from Louise Candlish." - BA Paris

This information about The Heights was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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A Riveting Examination of Parenting, Grief, Betrayal, & Revenge
Bestselling author Louise Candlish's latest novel, The Heights, is a book within a book, as well as a family drama. The protagonist, Ellen Saint, is a participant in a writing seminar, drafting a memoir. As the chapters of Ellen's story unfold, they are interspersed with excerpts about it from a feature in the Sunday Times, the reporter's commentary adding interesting color to the tale.

Ellen suffers from "high place phenomenon," a common form of vertigo that causes people to experience an irrational urge to jump from high places such as bridges, rooftops or balconies. It does not mean that the individual is suicidal, but is, rather an intrusive thought and form of mild anxiety, as well as autonomy. As the story opens, Ellen is meeting with a client when she looks out a window and recognizes Kieran Watts standing on the roof of an adjacent tall building called The Heights. She is convinced she is looking at Kieran and equally convinced that the man cannot be Kieran. She knows Kieran is dead because she killed him. He was a monster who ruined her life.

In her first-person narrative, Ellen takes readers back to 2012, relating how she gave birth to her son, Lucas, when she was quite young. She and his father, Vic, broke up when she later fell in love with Justin, her husband, with whom she shares fourteen-year-old daughter Freya. Theirs is a modern family, with Vic living a fifteen-minute walk away. He has dreamed for years of starting a craft beer company, and continues making pitches in hopes of finally inking a deal.

Lucas is sixteen years old -- a strong student with good enough grades to attend a university of his choice, handsome, and well-liked. Ellen loves him boundlessly and is a fiercely protective mother. Foxwell Academy assigns him to serve as a buddy to a "vulnerable new classmate," the aforementioned Kieran, who resides with his foster mother in a different neighborhood but scored well enough on placement examinations to be enrolled in the exclusive school. Ellen describes having heard tales with "a daredevil theme" about Kieran before she met him, which evoked images of a handsome, athletic boy. Instead, upon meeting him, she sums him up as "short and fleshy, with deep red hair that he had a habit of tugging at and skin bumpy with acne." Her immediate reaction to him is visceral, noting that he looks at her with a "death glare . . . so deadly, so chilling, I actually shivered . . . " Ellen is taken aback by her own response to meeting the boy. She knows that Kieran, who lacks any social graces, has had a difficult childhood and she should be gracious in her assessment of him, but despite her self-awareness, she cannot control herself. She is convinced that he is trouble. Will her instr instinctual reaction be accurate? And how reliable is Ellen's recitation of the facts?

Indeed, Lucas falls under Kieran's influence, despite his parents' attempts to prevent it. Kieran has no interest in college or the future at all, for that matter. He is interested only in taking drugs and partying, and Ellen experiences a mother's worst nightmare. She loses all power of persuasion over Lucas who begins using drugs, lets his grades slip, and jeopardizes his admission to college.

Ellen's fixation on Kieran becomes increasingly pronounced as Lucas grows distant and defiant. Both Vic and Justin love Ellen in their own ways and have, over the years, developed mechanisms to copy with Ellen's anxieties and neuroses. They have found that confronting her with facts and logic is counterproductive so, rather, they appear to be supportive of her machinations. In Vic's sardonic first-person narrative, he details the ways in which he manages Ellen, noting that he probably should have drafted a "how to" guide for Justin. Although they are also concerned about Lucas, neither of them are as alarmed by his friendship with Kieran as Ellen is, which she finds utterly exasperating. Justin chastises her for characterizing Kieran as "evil," put off by what he deems to be histrionic behavior on Ellen's part. He believes that Kieran makes Lucas and his friends laugh and poses no real danger to any of them. "What is it going to take for you to start believing me? When something really bad happens, will you believe me then?" Ellen demands.

And, of course, something really bad happens. When the worst kind of tragedy befalls Ellen and her family, Ellen neither believes that Kieran's version of events is truthful or that justice is served. She wants vengeance, which propels her obsession with Kieran to a reckless new level and she convinces Vic that they must take matters into their own hands. He agrees and they devise a plan that she believes -- but never independently verifies -- is executed successfully, which empowers her to carry on with life, focused on Freya, Justin, and her career as an interior lighting designer. Until, that is, until her fateful sighting of Kieran on that rooftop that launches her on a manic search for the truth. It's a lonely journey, because no one believes her when she insists that he is, in fact, alive.

Candlish's plot is intricately-crafted, inventive and suspenseful. Ellen demonstrates just how far she will go to hold Kieran accountable for his misdeeds, but is she willing to put everything on the line a second time if, in fact, she is right about him being the man on the rooftop? And what is he doing there? Does he actually live in that tony building? How can he afford to do so? Who is the mysterious man who warns her to stop seeking answers and what is his interest in the matter? And how do Vic's actions figure into the mystery?

As always, Candlish's characters are intriguingly multi-layered and fully developed. Vic and Justin are believable as the men who have loved Ellen for years, accepting her as a high-strung, protective, but unquestionably devoted mother. They have always tolerated what they perceive as her quirks. They fail to share Ellen's extreme concern about Kieran's potential impact upon Lucas and their family until it is too late.

Maternal instinct is a powerful, driving, and often unerring force in a mother's life. Candlish deftly portrays the dichotomy between the men's reactions to Kieran's influence over Lucas . . . and Ellen's. She also credibly depicts Ellen's outrage at having her feelings dismissed and being viewed as bordering on hysteria. She believes her instinctual responses justify her actions, and she will not be pacified until she knows the full truth, no matter the cost. Ellen's story will resonate with readers. Through it, Candlish examines grief, neurotic over-parenting, and the ways in which her obsession with Kieran and the aftermath of the tragedy impact young Freya and her relationship with her mother.

Candlish's deviously clever plot is full of unexpected betrayals and revelations, and shocking twists that propel the story forward at an accelerating pace until the very last page. Candlish inspires readers to contemplate what they would do if they found themselves in a situation like Ellen's -- how they would protect their child from harm if they were absolutely convinced that the child was making self-destructive choices and, should the unthinkable occur, the lengths to which they would go to extract retribution. The Heights is another riveting thriller from a master storyteller.

Thanks to Atria Publishing for a paperback and NetGalley for an electronic Advanced Reader's Copy of the book.

Elizabeth@Silver's Reviews

Elizabeth@Silver'sReviews says: Thriller Fans will enjoy this book
Mothers always know best don't they?

Ellen knew Kieran was bad news and didn't want him being friends with her son Lucas.

She couldn't talk her son out of spending time with Kieran. All the insisting didn't get the point across and ended up with Lucas being in a car accident with Kieran.

Ellen couldn't forgive Kieran, and when Kieran came back to town after his time in jail, she couldn't get over seeing him alive and not her son.

We follow Ellen, Lucas, Vic, Justin, Freya, and Kieran as the story unfolds from when Lucas was in high school to when Kiernan comes back to town.

What will a mother do to avenge her child?

There is an underlying tension and you know something bad did happen and is going to happen, but what is it?

You will also ask yourself what the significance of THE HEIGHTS is.

The book did drag a bit, but the overall story line ends well.

Surprises and the characters will keep you turning the pages.

Thriller fans will enjoy this book. 4/5

This book was given to me by the publisher both in print and via NetGalley for an honest review.

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Author Information

Louise Candlish Author Biography

Photo: Johnny Ring

Louise Candlish is the Sunday Times (London) bestselling author of fourteen novels. Our House, a #1 bestseller, won the Crime & Thriller Book of the Year at the 2019 British Book Awards, was longlisted for the 2019 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and was shortlisted for the Goldsboro Books Glass Bell Award. It is now in development for a major TV series with Red Planet Pictures, producers of Death in Paradise. Louise lives in London with her husband and daughter.

Link to Louise Candlish's Website

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