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About The Book

From the bestselling author of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep and Three Things About Elsie, a delightfully sinister novel about a married woman living a nice, quiet suburban life—but things aren’t always what they seem…

Linda has lived in a quiet neighborhood since fleeing the dark events of her childhood in Wales. Now she sits in her kitchen, wondering if this is all there is: pushing the vacuum around and cooking fish sticks for dinner, a far cry from the glamorous lifestyle she sees in the glossy magazines coming through the mail slot addressed to the previous occupant, Rebecca.

Linda’s husband Terry isn’t perfect—he picks his teeth, tracks dirt through the house, and spends most of his time in front of the TV. But that seems fairly standard—until he starts keeping odd hours at work, at around the same time young women in the town start to go missing.

If only Linda could track down and befriend Rebecca, maybe some of that enviable lifestyle would rub off on her and she wouldn’t have to worry about what Terry is up to. But the grass isn’t always greener and you can’t change who you really are. And some secrets can’t stay buried forever…

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for A Tidy Ending includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

Linda lives a quiet (if unfulfilling) life with her husband, Terry, in a peaceful town—until young women start to go missing. Rumors spread of a serial killer in their midst, and both Linda and her mother, who lives nearby, are reminded of the dark past they left behind in Wales many years ago. . . .

Meanwhile, Terry has been keeping odd hours at work, and his tiresome qualities become more and more grating to Linda. She flips through the glossy catalogs that arrive in the mail for the house’s previous tenant, Rebecca Finch, and imagines that woman’s glamorous lifestyle. If only Linda could become friends with this Rebecca, she’d stop worrying so much about what Terry might be up to.

A sinister but darkly funny tale full of shocking twists, A Tidy Ending asks whether the grass is really greener and if we can ever really know even those closest to us.

Topics and Questions for Discussion

1. Discuss the character of Linda—what are her personality traits, eccentricities, and obsessions? What did you think of her as a narrator?

2. After perusing the glossy catalogs addressed to Rebecca Finch, Linda begins imagining herself into a different sort of life—a better, more glamorous one like she imagines Rebecca must have. To what extent is this kind of daydreaming harmless—or not? When did you first think Linda had taken it too far? Have you ever experienced this kind of envy?

3. What do we know about the character of Terry? How well does Linda really know him? Did you find him suspicious?

4. Two mysteries unfold simultaneously in the book: the identity of the serial killer, and the truth about Linda’s father. What do we learn about him from Linda’s narration, and what can we guess from context? How does Linda feel about her father, and why?

5. Describe Linda’s relationship with her mother. Why do you think they have stuck together so closely over the years? What was young Linda’s relationship with her father like in comparison?

6. In chapter nine, Linda tells the reader: “whenever you try to run away from your problems, your problems join you for the ride” (page 77). Is this true for these characters?

7. Discuss the presentation of social media in the book. How does it make the characters feel, and how does it impact the events of the story? How does this compare to your own experiences with social media?

8. Compare Linda’s relationship with Rebecca to Rebecca’s relationship with Linda. How do they treat each other? Take advantage of each other? Why?

9. What did you think of the ending? Were you left with unanswered questions, or did you find it “tidy”? During one of the “Now” sections, Dr. Richard asks Linda, “you must have suspected what was going on? . . . When was the point where you put two and two together?” (page 256). Was there a moment earlier in the book where you started to guess what was happening?

10. When did you figure out where the “Now” was taking place? How did what you read in these scenes influence what you thought would happen in the central timeline? Did your understanding of what these scenes were about change as you read on?

11. There are lots of twists, turns, secrets, and small mysteries revealed over the course of the book. Which one, besides the ending, took you most by surprise?

12. Which character(s) in the book did you find most sympathetic? Did your opinion of them change over the course of the novel?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Watch the film Ingrid Goes West (2017), which is about a woman who stalks a social media influencer in order to befriend her. Discuss the parallels between Linda and the film’s title character.

2. Have a taste test of Jaffa Cakes—the chocolate orange snack that is a favorite of Linda’s—along with other British biscuits like McVitie’s Milk Chocolate Digestives and Jammie Dodgers.

3. Read The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, Joanna Cannon’s novel set in 1976 about two ten-year-old sleuths investigating the mysterious disappearance of a neighbor in their small town. How does that novel compare to A Tidy Ending?

About The Author

Photograph by Philippa Gedge

Joanna Cannon is a psychiatrist with a degree from Leicester Medical School. She lives in England’s Peak District with her family and her dog. She is the author of Three Things About Elsie and The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, a top ten bestseller in the UK.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Scribner (August 2, 2022)
  • Length: 352 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982185596

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Raves and Reviews

"Delicious . . . thoroughly engrossing. . . . This book didn't just stay with me. It stayed and stayed and stayed.” Laurie Hertzel, Minneapolis Star Tribune

"A slow-burn thriller that follows a suburban wife's fascination with a former tenant might lead to frightening revelations about the person she thought she knew best." PopSugar, “Best Books of 2022 So Far” 

"A genuinely funny, and moving, novel about a serial killer . . . a curtain-twitching, darkly funny tale with a gloriously sinister twist." —Observer (UK)

"Compellingly creepy, with precisely observed characterisation . . . combines pathos with lovely flashes of humour and a wholly unexpected ending" —The Guardian (UK)

"Cannon’s shrewd characterisation, sparky observations and subtly menacing plot makes this a darkly funny and delightfully sinister read." —Daily Mail (UK)

“Sublimely structured and darkly witty . . . the multilayered plot offers genuine surprises up to the final revelation. Cannon has raised her game with this one.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Cannon’s story is chock-a-block with punch-in-the-gut twists, wry humor, tragedy, and heartbreak. . . . The ending, which will leave readers gasping, is more stunning than ‘tidy.’” —Booklist (starred review)

“I absolutely loved it. A serial killer, a traumatized woman, the quirkiest of characters, such perfect observational writing-- Joanna Cannon is a superstar.” —Sarah Pinborough, author of Behind Her Eyes 

“Devastating, deceptive, and darkly funny.” —Sarah Winman, author of Still Life 

 “A compellingly crafted and compulsive read, full of twists—and twists on twists—that keeps you guessing until the last page. It’s a book that is always at least two steps ahead—though not in the direction you suspect—and deliciously mixes, as only Joanna Cannon can, suburbia and the sinister. A joy and a triumph.” —Rachel Joyce, author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry 

“Ridiculously good—gripping and creepy and clever and insightful. An absolute masterclass in characterization—Linda is going to stay with me for a very long time. Just as she did with The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, Cannon perfectly captures the claustrophobia of suburban life while reminding us how little we really know the people who live behind those lace curtains and neat hedges.” —Marianne Cronin, author of The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot 

“Deliciously sinister and irresistibly tense. The creepiest, cleverest, most haunting mystery you will read all year. Absolutely brilliant.” —Rachel Clarke, author of Dear Life 

“Original, macabre and the reveal of the twist made me laugh with shock and delight. Never less than intriguing, A Tidy Ending had me holding my breath!” —Marian Keyes, author of Grown Ups 

“A highly entertaining thriller with a huge, warm, beating human heart and a central character that stays with you long, long after reading. I loved it.” —Kate Hamer, author of The Girl in the Red Coat 

A Tidy Ending is thoroughly absorbing… Cannon carefully unspools this character-driven mystery using the superb storytelling we’ve come to expect from her.” —Olivia Kiernan, author of Too Close to Breathe 

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