Orion Fiction has acquired a tale of "sex, envy and betrayal in the suburbs" in The People at Number 9 by Felicity Everett.
Publishing director Kate Mills bought world rights from Sallyanne Sweeney and Mulcahy Associates for a five-figure advance.
The plot takes off as new "eccentric" neighbours, Gav and Lou, arrive in a close-knit street. The novel's protagonist, Sara, is initially flattered when the newcomers offer her "the hand of friendship". Sara finds herself increasingly drawn to artist Gav, and makes big changes in her life "inspired and encouraged" by their "creative" lifestyle. But as her new "soul mates" begin asking for things they have no right to ask of neighbours, their arrival spells "shattering consequences" for everyone.
Mills said: "As soon as I started reading this, I was gripped. It has that Apple Tree Yard sense of a middle-class woman undone, as our narrator is increasingly obsessed with her new neighbours, ultimately jeopardising her own marriage and family. Think Harriet Lane mixed with Liane Moriarty with a nod to Notes on a Scandal – bitingly sharp, relentlessly paced and a bit sexy too. There’s a very compelling sense of peeking inside someone else’s marriage. Felicity explores the darker side of female friendship – the give and take, the shifts in power, the slights and flashes of triumph.
"The author is brilliant at putting her finger on moments readers will recognise. There’s so much here which is painfully familiar wherever you live. I found it utterly page-turning."
Agent Sallyanne Sweeney added: "Sharp, witty and addictive, The People at Number 9 has made me look differently at my neighbours ever since... The instant passion and creativity of Kate Mills bowled us over and I couldn't be happier to have Orion publish this novel in 2017."