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The Neighbor's Secret by L. Alison Heller
Contemporary fiction

The Neighbor's Secret

Early Release

This is an early release that's only available to our members—the rest of the world has to wait to read it.

by L. Alison Heller

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Quick take

A suburban book club discovers life can be more disturbing than fiction when a vandal disrupts life on the cul-de-sac.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Movieish


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SuburbanDrama

    Suburban drama

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_BookAboutBooks

    Book about books

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MamaDrama

    Mama drama


With its sprawling yards and excellent schools, Cottonwood Estates is the perfect place to raise children. The Cottonwood Book Club serves as the subdivision’s eyes and ears, meeting once a month for discussion, gossip, and cocktails. If their selections trend toward twisty thrillers and salacious murder mysteries, it’s only because the members feel secure that such evil has no place in their own cul-de-sacs.

Or does it?

What happened to Lena’s family fifteen years ago was a tragic accident, and she will never admit otherwise. Devoted wife and mother Annie refuses to acknowledge—even to herself—the weight of a past shame. And new resident Jen wants friends, but as always, worry about her troubled son gets in the way.

When late-night acts of vandalism target the women of the book club in increasingly violent and personal ways, they will be forced to decide how far to go to keep their secrets. At least they all agree on what’s most important: protecting their children at any cost—even if it means someone has to die.

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The Neighbor's Secret

Chapter One


It all started that brilliantly sunny Thursday morning, with Janine and her gossip.

As the familiar green minivan cruised around the bend in the road, Annie considered flattening herself against the Jensens’ hedges. She truly appreciated Janine and everything that she did for the neighborhood, but sometimes, especially first thing in the morning, the woman could be a lot.

Like how now, Janine had pulled over to the side of the road with a screech, zipped down her window, leaned out her head, and excitedly flapped her hands in front of her face, like she’d taken a bite of a scalding-hot breakfast sandwich.

Gossip, Annie suspected, as she tugged the dog’s leash to coax her over to Janine’s car. Or worse, bragging. Janine’s daughter Katie was always achieving things, which was wonderful. In theory, Annie rooted for Katie—for all children—to succeed, but something about Janine’s presentation always caused a flash of panic within Annie: Should Hank and Laurel be composing oboe concertos? Why haven’t they written cookbooks for charity?

Annie would have to remind herself that Laurel’s grades were excellent, that Hank was a joy, that both were curious and kind people, and that people who bragged about their children were usually overcompensating for something.

“Did you hear about the vandal?” Janine asked. Her face was pink with excitement and there was a halo of frizz around her blond ringlets.

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Why I love it

I’m a sucker for novels about suburban mothers hiding damaging secrets. While reading these books might be easy—give me a free evening, and I’m liable to devour all 350 pages in one go—writing them well is incredibly challenging. To be able to portray these well-off women with equal parts satire and empathy? To write about murder while somehow leaving the reader feeling hopeful about human nature? Well, that takes the gifts of someone like L. Alison Heller.

The Neighbor’s Secret drops us into the world of Cottonwood Estates, an idyllic subdivision where the schools are good, and mayhem is contained only between the pages of whatever novel the neighborhood’s book club is discussing that month. That is, until a mysterious vandal starts making trouble, causing some of the women in the club to confront long-buried secrets that threaten to rip their peaceful lives apart. While the characters’ skeletons are (hopefully) far more gasp-inducing than anything lurking in readers’ own closets, their hopes and worries are all too recognizable. Above all, they want to protect their children.

Mixing dark comedy, big twists, and an over-caffeinated book club dictator who loves sending emails full of ALL-CAPS AND TOO MANY EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!, The Neighbor’s Secret will have you reading “just one more chapter, I swear” late into the night.

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Member ratings (21,082)

  • Elans S.

    Garfield hts, OH

    So the actual story differs from the synopsis posted, and it’s a bit of a slow burn. Don’t get me wrong, the book is amazing and poetic. It just doesn’t heat up until the final 1/3. Unseen plot twist.

  • Megan R.

    Los Angeles, CA

    Loved it!! Obsessed with messy suburban moms! Also love that book clubs are still fighting over Lolita……. Great plot twists… nice slow burn and a satisfying ending. Read it!!! Want more like this one!

  • Caitlin K.

    Wheelersburg, OH

    Captivating with more twists and turns than I would’ve ever thought. Definitely keeps you hanging and wanting to know what’s going on without ever letting you know the truth until the last minute. 

  • LeAnn W.

    Louisville, KY

    Very satisfying! The more I read the better it got. Families, children, women of various ages… my favorite kind of characters! The momma bears came out and did not disappoint! Loved the plot twist!❤️

  • Katie Y.

    Denver, CO

    4.5 stars! As a huge Liane Moriarty fan, I picked this up due to the recommendation. It’s true... it’s almost as if queen Liane wrote it herself. I flew through the juicy, twisty pages. -.5 for pacing

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