Book Review: The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena is adorned with quotations from other thriller authors. Like the author of The Girl on a Train, Paula Hawkins, Lapena's publisher, claims that Lapena is one of a growing phenomenon of women writers who have all turned to crime after originally writing either unrelated to crime/genres. 

The Couple Next Door does start off beautifully, with the present-tense narrative heightening the intensity as Anne and Marco panic and the police respond, finding tyre tracks in the garage and the back door's motion detector broken. The couple starts to worry whether they are under investigation when Detective Rasbach and his crew discover no evidence that anybody else was in the residence.

Synopsis from Goodreads...

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.

My reaction to the novel...

The writing was average. The "third person" style narrative was starting to irritate me. It's usually not a good sign if the narrative is something the reader keeps thinking about. Although narration shouldn't be observed, the manner this book was written made me notice it a lot. The storyline loses some of its meaning after everything is put together. Additionally, a number of new characters are introduced but never given the chance to grow, and there are a number of unresolved side plots. There are many untied threads, and I cannot stand it.

Also, it really occurred to me as I was reading this book what kind of parents they are to leave their newborn home alone with just CCTV running so that they may go to the party. If this actually occurs, I will place the blame on the parents since, while they are free to depart for the party anytime they want, leaving the infant alone presents a distinct set of challenges. The storyline of this novel takes a number of surprising twists, but as you read on, you'll start to question who the real antagonist is.

Although it didn't quite hit the point in terms of family thrillers, I found it to be amusing enough. There were several wasted moments when the author might have examined in-depth the mind and immense diversity of a woman experiencing mental illness, from a novel viewpoint and without condemnation or condescending attitudes. I can say that the book's weird and utterly needless finale, which had absolutely no justification for it, was my biggest disappointment.

When I was nearly finished, I had the impression that the problem had long since been resolved. The major reason I persisted was because I wanted to finish the book since I had already committed so much in it. But if I were to suggest it to someone, I would let them know that it is best suited for mystery fans who enjoy reading books with fewer plot twists than usual. It's quite dull, by the way.

My Overall Rating: ⭐⭐


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