cover image Perfectly Nice Neighbors

Perfectly Nice Neighbors

Kia Abdullah. Putnam, $17 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-593713-81-5

Abdullah (Next of Kin) steeps this excellent standalone in the racial tensions of suburban England. Bangladeshis Salma and Bilal Khatun have moved to the suburbs from London with their teenage son, Zain, hoping for a new start after the failure of Bilal’s restaurant and Zain’s expulsion from school. The appeal of “neat streets and perfectly nice neighbors” has overpowered concerns that the family’s business setbacks might make the purchase of a new home financially risky, but Salma remains trepidatious. Her misgivings are only magnified when their white neighbors, the Huttons, reveal themselves as bigots: Salma witnesses Tom Hutton deliberately knock down a Black Lives Matter banner Zain displayed on the Khatun’s house, and suspects that Tom painted over one of her windows after she hung the banner there. Tom denies the vandalism, Zain films a confrontation between him and Salma, and tensions between the two families escalate, leading to violence and attempted murder charges. Abdullah dots the narrative with a few surprises, but plot twists are secondary to her unsparing depiction of racial prejudice, which sets this apart from standard trouble-in-the-suburbs thrillers. Readers will have a tough time letting go of this one. Agent: Jessica Faust, BookEnds Literary. (Sept.)