Book Review: The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

28815474Imagine going to a dinner party at the next door neighbor’s house, and coming home to find that your infant daughter has been stolen?

Yes, it’s every parent’s worse nightmare, and that’s the nightmare that Anne and Marco Conti are living in The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena.

This debut suspense novel details the investigation following the abduction of their daughter Cora.

Suspicion immediately falls on the parents, but the truth is a much more complicated. As the Contis hide out from the press, Detective Rasbach knows the panicked couple is hiding something.

As the investigation continues, Anne and Marco go over the night trying to figure out who could have taken their daughter, and are forced to reveal secrets they’ve been keeping from one another.

If Gone Girl, taught me anything it’s that I enjoy a good domestic suspense story. While The Couple Next Door does deliver a page-turning tale, the end result is a plot-driven piece of work with characters that I ultimately found one-dimensional.

I read The Couple Next Door back in October of 2016, and it’s taken me this long to get my feelings about this book into a form to the point where I could write somewhat eloquently about it.

The biggest pitfall here, is the way Lapena chose to narrate her story in the third-person objective. The narrator knows only what’s observable in the physical universe, and a bit of character history, and it just didn’t work for me. While we saw the characters go through their day to day life, there wasn’t any teasing or any deeper motivations for each of the characters. Most of the book was A, leads to B, leads to C, with very little commentary.

If I was scripting a movie, this would be ideal, but as a reader I really wanted to connect more with Anne and Marco, and I never quite got there. As a result, I couldn’t develop a relationship with them, and the story suffered for it.

There is also something really mundane about the plot. It feels a bit like the author googled “How to Stage a Kidnapping” and then created a collage of all the different ideas. Nothing about this scenario seemed original, and I was able to predict the twists at just about every turn. I may not have gotten their motives, but when I can suss out who’d done it…yea, you needed a few more misdirections.

It wasn’t until the very last chapter that I found these characters interesting, and I ended up putting the book down, thinking, “I just read 308 pages, and now you’ve pulled the rug out from under me?”

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I fumed about this ending for about an hour before I started my next book. The ending really got under my skin, and not in a good way. After it settled, I realized that if the book began with the ending, and we had a past/present narration, I may have enjoyed the novel a lot more.

So, while the premise of the book sounds interesting and I really wanted to be engrossed in it, it fell flat and I just didn’t connect with it. I am hoping that Shari Lapena’s next book is better, because I think she has great ideas, but this one didn’t do it for me.

FINAL RATING: 3 Stars

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena is now available for purchase. You can find it on Book Depository, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local independent bookseller

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