Who’s There? by Kerena Swan #BookReview #BlogTour

Appearances can be deceptive…

Arnold Eastwood is thrilled when social services allocate him a flat all of his own. Independence hasn’t come easily to a young man with Downs Syndrome but now he has the chance to live free from his mum’s nagging, find a girlfriend, watch endless movies and make new friends.
Meanwhile a London drug gang is setting up a supply line in Arnold’s town. They’re looking for someone to deliver drugs for them and somewhere to set up a base of operations.
Soon Arnold and his flat are in the drug gang’s sights. Drawn into the dark underworld of crack cocaine and modern slavery, Arnold soon discovers that friends can in fact be deadly enemies.
The question is: can he break free?  

I’m delighted to be hosting the blog tour for Who’s There? today. Many thanks to Kerena Swan and Sarah Hardy from BOTBS Publicity for inviting me and for my advance digital copy of the novel.

As the parent of teenagers living in the countryside, I have been aware of county lines drug gangs for some time. In Who’s There?, Kerena Swan has written a compelling thriller which really gets to the heart of this issue, alongside other pressing contemporary social problems such as cuckooing (where dealers exploit the more vulnerable to take over their homes) and modern day slavery.
The book’s narrative switches between various characters, with Arnold Eastwood, his sister, Lottie and a teenage boy known only as Chip, featuring most strongly. Arnold has Down’s Syndrome and is undoubtedly the real heart of the novel. He is a beautifully created character and I really appreciated how the author never patronises him. His presence is vital to the storyline and Kerena Swan’s own experiences working in social care ensures he isn’t ever a token figure. Arnold is innocent and trusting which is why others are able to take advantage of him but he is also resolute, courageous and even a bit sneaky at times. His chapters are written in the first person which mean readers really get a sense of who he is and his self-deprecating wit and honesty shines through. He is determined to  live independently despite his mother’s concerns about the area his allocated flat is in and although he  does become vulnerable to drug dealers, in many other ways he is actually able to manage living alone very successfully. Perhaps most crucially, he is not the only person to become a victim of the gang and Who's There? provides a stark insight into how good these people are at identifying those members of society who are easier prey for them.
This includes people like Chip who is desperate for something resembling family life. His own mother was an addict who died from a drug overdose and his father regularly beat him. At the start of the book he is already a runner for a dealer known as Poker and it's chilling to see how easily he is manipulated and tricked into becoming a slave for him. His chapters are written in the third person giving us a rather sad insight into not only his own choices but also how easy it is to judge people like him. He seems to be motivated by money and possessions and initially appears to have very little empathy for others, seeing them as a means to an end. However, there is more to Chip than just the superficial first impression and Kerena Swan cleverly leads the reader into caring as much about his outcome as that of the other, more  obviously sympathetic characters.
Arnold's sister, Lottie, his mum, Linda and neighbour, Saskia all play a significant role in his life and it's fascinating to see the contrast between them. Linda is understandably over-protective of her son and it's clear she isn't ready to let him go. She is clearly a natural nurturer but at what expense to her own well-being? Meanwhile, Lottie is desperate to move in with her boyfriend, Carl but never quite seems to get the break she needs. Some of the chapters are written from her perspective and are an honest portrayal of the complex emotions that come from having a family member with special needs. Her first reaction to learning he has been allocated a flat is jealousy and she also seems to be rather judgemental of her mum. However, she is also shown to be a fierce advocate for her brother and perhaps in some ways, more in tune to his needs than Linda is. She understands his desire to make a life outside the family home because she feels the same way and although there are times when it's possible to question whether her course of action is the right one, it's always clear as to why she behaves as she does. She finds herself suddenly confronted by the darker underbelly of society and it's terrifying to recognise how out of depth many of us would be if thrust into a similar situation.
Saskia is already one of life's outcasts as a drug addict who prostitutes herself for her next fix. However, Arnold is drawn to her; there is one touching scene where she patiently helps him to learn how to tell the time. My own brother was a heroin addict so I know only too well how easy it is for people to fall through the cracks and to become overwhelmed by  by a drug which powerfully convinces its users that only it provides the means to take away some of the pain for a short while. Saskia's story is an all-too common tragedy and I'm grateful to Kerena Swan for recognising humanity of addicts.
This is an unsettling look at the darker side of society that most of us are able to look away from but as Arnold's story shows, drug gangs are increasingly managing to entangle more and more people in their ever-growing webs. As the book reaches its tense and exciting conclusion, I raced through the pages wondering if he would be able to find a way out of his predicament and what the outcome would be for the other characters who I had come to care deeply about. While I couldn't claim to like the violent and controlling Poker, his contribution to the novel is absolutely vital, not just as the main villain but also as an example of how poverty and violence leads to a vicious circle, with his own upbringing making him arguably as much victim as perpetrator. Who's There? does what crime fiction does best and is a thoughtful, shocking and unbearably real reflection of the complex and frightening issues affecting modern society.

Who's There? can be purchased from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Kerena Swan trained as a Social Worker and worked for Social Services for over 25 years. For the past 14 years she has owned and managed an ‘outstanding’ rated agency for children with disabilities.  Following serious illnesses she decided to fulfil her long-held ambition of writing a book and getting it published. ‘Dying to See You’, published by Bloodhound Books, was her debut novel.
After many years of writing professionally in the course of her work, Kerena has discovered the exhilaration and deep joy of writing fiction and can be found at all hours in front of her computer. Her second novel ‘Scared to Breathe’ is now available and her third book, ‘Who’s There?’ will be released on December 13th 2019.

Kerena lives with her family in a small village in Bedfordshire, UK and her books are set in the surrounding areas.

Drawing on her extensive knowledge and experience of the problematic world of social work and social studies, Kerena adds a unique angle to the domestic noir and crime genre.

If you would like to hear more about new releases, read Kerena’s blogs and download a free short-story – the prequel to Dying to See You – then visit www.kerenaswan.co.uk   and join her mailing list.


  1. Thanks so much for this thoughtful and great review as well as being part of the blog tour today Karen x


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