Book Review: The Couple Next Door

the-couple-next-door
Picture: Novel Gossip

Shari Lapena’s The Couple Next Door is a fast-paced mystery thriller filled with twists and turns. The author dives right into the scene of the night the horrible kidnapping happened. The narrative is in present tense third person, which gives us a sense of urgency. The point of view changes turn by turn to many characters so that we get a little peek at each of the characters.

Anne and Marco are the couple who make one of the many wrong decisions in this book to leave their six-month-old baby, Cora in their house unattended to go to a party next door. They have motion sensors and baby monitors and they take turns to check on her every half hour. Nothing could possibly go wrong. Unfortunately, for them at around 1:30 in the morning they do not find their baby girl in her crib like Marco had left the last time he had checked and all hell breaks loose. The plot is gripping enough to make page turning addictive. No wonder I finished the book in one sitting.

The characters each have their own especial kind of flaws, some just stupid and desperate, some psychotic and some plain evil and it was quite difficult to tell which one was which in the beginning. To be honest none of the characters is very likable. I just did not like Anne even though she is the mother and is clearly a victim throughout the book, excluding the disastrous ending. I actually sympathized with Marco’s character the most. His desperation and thought process are justified by the author quite well. Since he and his wife are the central characters in this story, their character development is quite clear. This kidnapping transforms the slight cracks in their marriage into huge fractures. With each new chapter, their secrets come unraveling and each learns things about the other they had better not. Even though it is a work of fiction, the stress they are under and their course of action are completely believable. Lapena leaves it to the readers to speculate if the couple can ever mend those fractures in their relationship.

As the story builds, Lapena gives us insight about each of the characters but she does it sparingly. With each new chapter, we only get a tiny bit of detail, which makes a significant change in our perspective of each of the characters. However, some of the characters lacked depth. I felt like the story was lacking some background story description. Which might actually be a good thing for a thriller story as the story did not stray from the central kidnapping mystery aspect of the story so that it lost interest. Every little detail mentioned in the book is leading up to the point for the revealing of the final culprit and adding something to all of the characters.

Like the author must have intended, I suspected most characters involved at some point or other of the crime and came up with my own crazy theories. However, as the mystery unraveled and I started connecting the dots it was clear how a series of wrong decisions had brought this horrible event. It was scary how the decisions had been made so surely at some point, how justifiable it seemed at the time it was made. It made me ponder about many things; what a person can be forced to do, what a person will do for the right amount of money, how completely hopeless a person can feel and what drives him then?

If you want a no-nonsense good thriller book, this is it. The plot is solid and the story does not stray from its chilling thriller course. Lapena does not dwell into unnecessary details and drives straight to the point in a twisted way. “Shari Lapena has written a stunning debut thriller.  Turn on the night-lights and lock all your doors and windows.  The Couple Next Door grabs you with each twist and shocks you with every betrayal.” says Linda Fairstein, New York Times bestselling author of Killer Look. Which is absolutely true because there was never a moment when I wanted to put the book down. Go ahead. Grab yourself a copy, you will not be disappointed.