Perfectly Nice Neighbors by Kia Abdullah

Review by Luanne Clark

“When your dream home comes with nightmare neighbors, how far will you go to keep your family safe?”

There is a lot to unpack in this roller-coaster of a thriller. In suburban England, Salma Khatun and her family of Bangladeshi heritage move into a more “comfortable” neighborhood. Everything is going smoothly until her teenage son, Zain, stakes a Black Lives Matter banner in their front lawn. Salma happens to be looking out the window when she sees next door neighbor, Tom, pull the banner from the ground and throw it on her lawn. Salma  immediately confronts Tom, who claims his action wasn’t racially motivated; it’s against HOA covenants to display flags or banners in the yards of the neighborhood. Salma moves Zain’s banner inside the home, to be displayed through the front window. The next morning the outside of her window has been smeared with paint, so the banner is no longer visible. And it begins…

Our characters are:

Salma Khatun. Is she over sensitive? Does she enjoy her victimhood? Is she intolerant of pretty, thin, blond, white women?

Bil Khatun, Salma’s husband. He had a restaurant that failed during the pandemic and is saddled with extensive debt. Is he capable? Is he supportive? Is he a “good immigrant”? 

Zain Khatun. Is he a troubled, angry teen? Is he too involved with social media? Is he a good friend to Jamie?

Tom Hutton. Is he a racist, or just an obsessive rule follower? Is he insensitive or just socially awkward?

Willa Hutton, Tom’s wife. Is she entitled? Is she true to Tom? Is she a good wife and mother when the chips are down?

Jamie Hutton, teenage son. He and Zain are good friends. But is he loyal? Is he selfish?

After the initial conflict, no one seems able to let things lie. After a volatile exchange is recorded and posted on social media the Khatuns and the Huttons are at war. Events escalate to include loss of employment, break-ins, squatting and vandalism, dog-napping, car-keying, false allegations of crime, swatting, bribery and payoffs, physical altercations, and attempted murder. Like I said…it’s a roller-coaster!

And while on this thrill ride, we are left to consider the motives and ethics of each of the characters. Maybe Tom is not insensitive, maybe he’s just impulsive. Maybe Salma is insensitive in her own right. Maybe Bil seems passive because his wife is overbearing. Maybe Willa has insecurities that nobody else can see. As the events escalate in dangerous magnitude, we want to jump in and say STOP! Somebody just STOP! Don’t retaliate! Tell the truth! Apologize! But that’s not what happens. By the end of our roller-coaster ride there has been a trial, punishment, and someone lies near death. The lives of the Khatuns and the Huttons have been irrevocably damaged. 

As our carnival car glides to a stop there are bombshells dropped in the final 20 pages of Perfectly Nice Neighbors that I guarantee you will not have seen coming. And the final paragraph? Why, that’s the biggest twist of all! 

Perfectly Nice Neighbors  is a great summer choice for thriller readers who like to think. Jump on the roller-coaster and remember: Stay seated and keep your arms and hands inside the ride at all times!