This novel is by the author of the very popular 'The Princess Diaries' books [which are published under the name Meg Cabot and are for children]. Meggin Cabot has written several book for adults which I have read and enjoyed.
'The Guy Next Door' is about a gossip columnist called Melissa Fuller who works for the New York Journal. Mel [as she is known to her friends] moved to New York from a small town in Illinois and is desperate to write 'proper' articles but hasn't yet been given the chance.
Mel has never exactly been a paragon of virtue when it comes to being on time for work, but one morning she has a genuine excuse; she finds that her elderly next door neighbour has been attacked and is unconscious. Mel, being the kind-hearted soul that she is, calls an ambulance and the police, and then takes over looking after her neighbour's two cats and rather large dog.
Finding that walking the dog every day is likely to cost her her job and that her neighbour is going to be in intensive care for quite some time, Mel tracks down her neighbour's only living relative, womanising photographer Max Friedlander. Max has no intention of coming to New York to look after his aunt's pets, but realises that his very wealthy aunt will probably cut him out of her will if he doesn't return to be at her bedside and look after the animals. His solution is to call upon his old college friend John to pay back a favour. John is to pretend that he is Max, move into Max's aunt's apartment and look after the pets. Max is only to be contacted if his aunt comes out of her coma. The plan seems foolproof until John meets Mel, how will Mel react when she finds out that John has been fooling her?
The main problem that I have with this book is that the story is told completely in emails. Whilst this is quite original and may appeal to some people, I found that it made the book lack depth. With a good book I feel like I am 'in' the story; you visualise what is happening and you are engrossed. The emails made for a chatty, informative style but made me feel like I was being kept at a distance.
Another flaw with the book is its complete lack of believability. I don't think that there is anything wrong with a little bit of escapism but this really did go over the top! Millionaires popping up all over the place, people impersonating other people, transvestite killers.... all too much!
Having said this however, this book is entertaining with likeable characters and several very funny moments. It's certainly not badly written, even if it is a very easy read, and would probably go down very well as something to read on a beach.
Published by Pan Books in 2002. 374 pages.