Nicole Lundrigan (AnnaLena Seemann)
Nicole Lundrigan (AnnaLena Seemann)


Boreal Book Club: A Man Downstairs by Nicole Lundrigan

Welcome to STYLE Canada‘s Boreal Book Club: a monthly meeting narrated by Girl Well Read, for bookworms who’re looking to scour new pages. Since we aim to shine a spotlight on all things Canadian in life and style, beauty, and health and wellness, it goes without saying that every instalment of the Boreal Book Club will feature a Canadian author and their latest title. Be sure to use the hashtag #BorealBookClub to share with us on social!
What if the childhood you remember isn’t really what happened at all?

Molly Wynters has moved back to her small hometown to care for her father, recently felled by a stroke and no longer able to communicate. She is ready to make a fresh start with her son after her divorce, but is haunted by both old events and new realities in her childhood home.

What Molly recalls of her young life with her father is full of love and care, even though a violent trauma defined her when she was a young girl, she witnessed her mother’s murder, and her testimony—“There was a man downstairs”—sent a teenager to prison. This tragic episode is still very much alive in the culture of the town, and the more Molly remembers, the more she fears that what she said on the stand all those years ago might not have been the whole truth.

After Molly, a trained therapist, volunteers for a local helpline, the threats begin. At first they seem random, but soon Molly realizes that she is a target, and even those closest to her seem suspicious, especially as unsuspected links between them emerge. More than one life was destroyed on that horrific long-ago day, and now someone intends to hold Molly accountable.

Lundigran’s latest is a psychological thriller about a woman who is tormented by her memories. The thread that has kept Molly sewn together begins to unravel when she returns home to the small town that is both the keeper of secrets and the scene of her mother’s murder.

On the simplest level, this is a page-turner. With short, punchy chapters, Lundrigan deftly shifts between a dual timeline and multiple points of view—Molly’s, Gil’s, and “His.” The beautiful writing is juxtaposed with the grittiness of the novel. It is sublimely atmospheric and wickedly suspenseful.

A Man Downstairs is a compelling examination into the human psyche and the unreliability of memory.

NICOLE LUNDRIGAN is the author of several critically acclaimed novels, including Hideaway, which was shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Novel, The Substitute, Glass Boys, and An Unthinkable Thing. Her work has appeared on “best of” selections from The Globe and Mail,, Chatelaine, Now magazine, and others.

Lundrigan grew up in Newfoundland, and now lives in Toronto.

Photo credit: @nicolejlundrigan via Instagram

Photo credit: @nicolejlundrigan via Instagram

Scroll to read Girl Well Read’s exclusive interview with Nicole Lundrigan about A Man Downstairs.
GWR: How did you start writing/become a writer?

NL: When I was young, I never considered becoming a fiction writer. I had my daughter shortly after finishing an MSc, and while I was home with her, I wrote various articles. At some point I opted to continue down that creative path and attempted a book. And then a second book…

GWR: This is your ninth novel—do you approach each the same way? Can you share a little about your writing process?

NL: With my first novel, I had no idea what I was doing. At one point I remember googling ‘rules of writing fiction,’ and quickly closed my laptop. In hindsight, I believe being completely naïve gave me the confidence to try. I have learned a great deal by going through the process, but with each new project there is fresh insecurity. Part of my approach is not focusing on writing a book, but instead a little cluster of words each day.

GWR: What is your favourite part of the publishing process?

NL: I find writing the first draft to be daunting, but once I have something down, the process becomes more enjoyable. When I receive feedback (sometimes in the form of really good questions), and the direction is suddenly illuminated, that’s an amazing feeling.

Photo credit: @nicolejlundrigan via Instagram

Photo credit: @nicolejlundrigan via Instagram

GWR: Character development or plot—what do you have more fun with?

NL: Definitely character. While I’ve gotten better at developing plotlines, exploring the psychology of the characters is what draws me in. When I’m thinking about writing a book, it usually starts with an emotion.

GWR: What’s the one element of a thriller that is a must?

NL: Sense of tension. That something *might* happen, even if the character is just walking to the fridge to get milk for coffee.

GWR: What was the genesis of A Man Downstairs?

NL: I happened upon a news article about a three-year-old boy testifying in court against his mother’s boyfriend. At the end the judge gave him a bag of chips. That was the spark, and various threads rolled out from there.

Photo credit: @girlwellread via Instagram

Photo credit: @girlwellread via Instagram

GWR: Tell me about the research you did for the novel?

NL: I tend to research in dribs and drabs, usually when I have a question during writing. Occasionally I get lost for a few hours, slipping down various rabbit holes. It’s neat when certain tidbits of information seem to find me, instead of the other way around.

GWR: Did the story end the way you’d initially thought?

NL: With this book, I had a clear(ish) sense of what would happen from the start but didn’t quite know why. During the writing process, I discovered a great deal about my character’s experiences and intentions and by the end, I understood their behaviour much better.

GWR: If your book was a beverage, what would it be? 

NL: Tricky question! Ideally a drink that is intense, involves a combination of distinct flavours, was popular in the seventies, and has come around again. Let’s go with a Sloe Gin Fizz.

GWR: Can you share what you are working on now and if you have any events/appearances coming up?

NL: I’ve been working on my tenth novel, which is currently unnamed. This will be the first time writing an entire book about women who are around my age. Though I’m not sure why, I’ve always resisted that. We will see what happens.

For events, I’m really looking forward to attending Montreal Mystère in May, which is downtown Montreal’s inaugural mystery book festival. I think it’s going to be a fantastic time.

You May Also Like