Neighborhood Watch by Kevin Patrick Kenealy Genre: Thriller
"Superb characters headline this chilling, slow-burn crime tale," Kirkus Reviews
"Thoroughly enjoyable with just the right amount of suspense." - Readers Favorite
"This gripping story of a sinister small-town secret will keep you on the edge of your seat! It's completely unforgettable." - Reedsy
When the Caseys move into affluent Ridgeport, Ill. in search of a better life for their newborn Scott, they are surprised to find a book entitled, Ridgeport Welcomes You: Procedures and Guidelines for Happy Living. The book is full of rules and ordinances that citizens must abide by in order to live in their happy neighborhood. Although mom Loretta Casey is hesitant to live by Ridgeport’s strict rules, all that changes when she meets her neighbor Sue Ellen Norris.
Sue Ellen serves on the Neighborhood Watch Committee, overseeing the safety of the town, and Loretta becomes engrossed in Sue Ellen’s addictive personality. But as Loretta’s son Scott and Sue Ellen’s son Matt grow, they discover that Ridgeport is not as perfect as their moms make it out to be. As Scott and Matt form their band of friends, their journeys into the neighborhood woods prove to be much more than just a place of refuge.
When Scott Casey reflected on his time living out his formative years in his parents’ Tudor-style home on Forest View Lane in Ridgeport, Illinois, he shuddered as if a chill was running up his spine. As the rain pounded outside his apartment window, he thought long and hard about what he was going to say. At thirty-three, Scott lived about as far away as one could get from Ridgeport: in a one-bedroom apartment in Honolulu. But Ridgeport never moved away from Scott.
Nestled between Naperville and Aurora, Ridgeport was buried on any map. No one outside a ten-mile radius had ever heard of Ridgeport until it made headlines in 2004 for the town’s first murder in its 110-year history. After that, it captured America’s attention as a town to watch and study under a microscope.
Until that murder, the hearts of Ridgeport’s residents seemed to beat as one — synchronized to the same rhythm—and anyone who lived there could feel it. Like most kids growing up in a small town, Scott and his friends knew every shop, business, and street within a half-hour bike ride from one end of town to the other.
Despite its diminutive size, Ridgeport supplied residents with everything they needed. In fact, residents never needed to leave town to do business or be entertained. They never even had to leave the town’s borders. A local grocery store stood from the 1960s, and Ridgeporters ventured to that store for all their provisions. A barbershop occupied a lot downtown, along with a women’s boutique. Ridgeport Mall, a frequent spot for entertainment in the community, opened in the 1980s with shops, restaurants, and a movie theater on the first floor. The town’s parks were well maintained, and on any summer day, Ridgeport’s families enjoyed watching Little League baseball games during the day and adult softball games at night. Fuller Park hosted the annual Ridgeport Festival, which offered a carnival, food vendors, games, and over-the-hill bands. With about 15,000 residents, the town was home to two elementary schools, a private school for grades K-8, and a junior high. Ridgeporter teens attended either one of the area’s private schools or Hartville High in Naperville, a top-rated school in the nation.
Scott didn’t realize it when he was young, but he lived in a well-to-do area. Many people hired a lawn service, and most moms stayed home to take care of the children. Scott never wondered why the moms of his best friends Matt Norris and Riley Wrobel were always home; he just figured that’s how things were. If they really wanted to, kids could play in the streets at three o’clock in the morning, and their parents would have nothing to worry about. But worry, they did.
The mothers in Ridgeport advocated for a crime-free town, a place that was perfect for raising a family, a place like no other. So, when Sue Ellen Norris served as the president of the Ridgeport Historic District, she made it her business to create a Neighborhood Watch group which the entire neighborhood agreed to.
Yes, Ridgeporters loved growing up there. Yet outside of their ten-mile radius, no one had ever really heard of Ridgeport. And those in town wanted to keep it that way.
Kevin Patrick Kenealy is in his seventh-year teaching AP Literature, English, and Journalism to high school students. Before that, he wrote for Chicagoland newspapers, where he had the privilege to interview several famous people including Barack Obama, former Illinois governors Jim Edgar, Rod Blagojevich, and Pat Quinn. He also has published two books of poetry, 20 Something and Faith Journey, and the horror novel, Life and Death.