2016 Reviews · contemporary fiction · crime · mystery · suspense · thriller

Book Review: The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

couple next door

Book blurb:

How well do you know the couple next door? Or your husband? Or even—yourself?  

People are capable of almost anything. . . 
Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all—a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately focuses on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story.

Inside the curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something. Both Anne and Marco  soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they’ve kept for years.

What follows is the nerve-racking unraveling of a family—a chilling tale of  deception, duplicity, and unfaithfulness that will keep you breathless until the final shocking twist.

3.5 stars

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena not just a story about a couple next door. It is the story of a terrifying kidnapping case of a 6 month old baby, one mother’s battle with postpartum depression, a father’s desperation at keeping his business and life intact, a wealthy family’s host of secrets and a detective who is trying to piece together a baffling disappearance.

The action begins immediately in The Couple Next Door, as the reader is automatically thrown into the chaos of the Conti couple’s lives. When their babysitter pulls out at the last minute, Anne and Marco Conti decide to go ahead with their plans to attend a dinner party at their neighbour’s house. Although Anna feels uneasy about the idea, she agrees to leave her baby daughter Cora asleep in her cot, home alone. Anna goes to the party armed with her baby monitor and vows to return home to check on Cora every half an hour. Eventually, after witnessing her husband flirting with next door neighbour Cynthia, Anna manages to put an end to their entertaining. When the Conti’s arrive home, they find an empty cot and their nightmare begins. The focus of the story then moves to the police investigation into Cora’s disappearance. What emerges is an unclear picture and shifting points of blame as to who is responsible for baby Cora’s disappearance.

Slipping easily into the sub genre of domestic fiction, The Couple Next Door is a book that will draw comparisons to novels such as Girl on the Train and Gone Girl. It is a worthy debut and a solid addition to the domestic fiction genre. It deviates a little from the genre, delivering an original plotline, that focuses on a heartbreaking kidnapping of a baby. Lapena sets her scene well, throwing her reader into the thick of the action, as well as examining the tormented hearts and minds of parents Anne and Marco. This gives room for Lapena to examine a side story of postpartum depression involving mother Anne. The reader is torn between sympathising with Anne and questioning whether or not they can truly trust her version of events. Blame for Cora’s disappearance shifts throughout the progression of the novel, from one character to another. Lapena sets this part of the novel up well, keeping the reader guessing and wondering who they can truly trust. The detective featured in the novel acts as a background character, simply moving the story and investigation along. The perpetrator focus tends to land on Cora’s parents, Anne’s wealthy parents and their shady associates. There were some points in the novel where I began to wonder why the book is titled “The Couple Next Door” as the couple feature only in the first moments of the novel and then dip in and out of the action. This was not what I expected based on the premise. However, Lapena knocked my socks off when she delivered a firecracker of an ending in the final three pages of the novel.

Despite being new on the scene of the crime and domestic fiction genre, Shari Lapena’s first effort in writing for this genre shows she can write an original story, that is both gripping and a page turner. Lapena is an author who shows great promise in her field and I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena was published in 2016 by Penguin Books Australia.



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