Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Couple Next Door – Shari Lapena

Psychological Thriller 4*s
Psychological Thriller
4*s

Marco and Anne Contis have been invited to their neighbours for a dinner party to celebrate Graham’s fortieth birthday. His wife Cynthia had specifically said she wanted an adults only evening so the Contis’ have booked the babysitter for the evening. But the poor girl’s grandmother is ill and she has to cancel. So the pair go for dinner, leaving baby Cora asleep and take the baby monitor. As an extra safety measure they also take it in turns to visit every half an hour to check on her. As the evening goes on and Marco is reluctant to leave they finally get home to the front door ajar and baby Cora nowhere to be seen.

I put off reading this book because I was worried I’d be so caught up in the parent’s decision to leave the baby that I wouldn’t be able to see beyond that. What happened was that there was obviously so much more subtlety to the story than that, although of course at the obligatory media conference where Marco begged for their baby’s return, the press seized on that aspect of the evening.

There is a bit of everything in this book, from post-natal depression; from class divisons borne of Anne’s wealthy background to Marco’s apparent unsuitability as a husband and don’t let us even touch on Anne’s superior step-father who signs off any loan or gift despite the money belonging to her mother. For all of the background to the marriage this doesn’t appear to be a case of Marco being in the marriage for the money, the pair were devoted until Anne struggled after Cora’s birth, he genuinely admired her way with client’s at the art gallery she worked at, and he was similarly committed to making a go of his company, but there are secrets, some bigger than others and Cora’s disappearance meant that these start spilling out from, and in all, directions.

Shari Lapena has created a plot driven book which is liberally sprinkled with red herrings. I went into this book with a fair idea how it would all unfold, more so after the end of the first chapter. By the second chapter my views had changed; fear not I had a whole new theory which I was sure was right… and then we got to the third chapter. I persevered in this manner until about half-way through the book when I decided that I didn’t know what the hell had happened, no theory fit the scenario and all the bits of information were making the situation worse, not better! Alongside the plotting this book unfolds at a fearsome pace – although for Anne and Marco time is going slowly without Cora, for the reader so much happens in such a short space of time that I seriously though weeks must have passed by the time we reached twenty-four hours into the story.

Not only is this book one that is well-plotted and swiftly paced, it also allows me to ask my favourite question ‘What would I do?’ As I mentioned in my first sentence when I first read the synopsis about a couple left their baby alone, I thought I wouldn’t be able to get past that but on reading the book, while it is true that is what happened, the choice was far more nuanced than that and took into an array of other issues, just like real life in fact. So yes, it was a stupid decision but not quite as idiotic as I initially imagined. This led me to ask more questions along the way based upon the characters and the decisions they made which for me is the sign of a good psychological thriller.

I’d like to thank the publishers Random House UK for giving me a copy of The Couple Next Door which was published 14 July 2016, this unbiased review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 14 July 2016
Publisher: Bantam Press
No of Pages: 304
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Author:

A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

25 thoughts on “The Couple Next Door – Shari Lapena

  1. I think I’m about the only person who didn’t like this book. I couldn’t get away with the writing and had guessed the outcome. Almost gave up on it a couple of times. Love how we all have different views and feelings about what we read.

  2. I know what you mean, Cleo, about that premise. I’ve heard a lot about this novel, and I wasn’t sure for a long time whether I would like it or not, just based on that. I’m glad you found it a lot subtler than what it seems on the surface. And those stories where we ‘peel away’ the layers of a character or relationship can be very well done. I’m glad you enjoyed this.

  3. Great review! I’ve been curious about The Couple Next Door and this really helps.
    Did you notice that the cover picture is exactly the same as Shelter by Jung Yun? The books came out within a couple of months of each other. Oops!

  4. Thank goodness that initial decision didn’t spoil the rest of the book.
    I still wouldn’t be able to cope with the stress of reading this. The second the baby went missing I would be flicking ahead to check that she comes back! 🙂

  5. I LOVED the book, despite my initial concerns about parents who would leave the baby alone….despite taking the baby monitor. You just know right away that something bad will happen, but, like you, I changed my mind about who did what and kept finding surprises at every turn…and then I was still stunned at the ending.

    Thanks for sharing.

  6. When I first heard about this book, I jotted it down in my tbr list, but next to it in parenthesis I wrote, “involves kidnapping, possible injury/death to a baby–not sure if I could read this.” Although your review (and others I’ve read) make it seem as if it would be the type of book I might enjoy (psychological suspense, domestic drama, buried secrets), I’m just not sue I can get my mind around the “leaving a baby alone” thing. I think I would have had to skip the party.

    1. That was my issue – I put this book aside multiple times but in the end I was pleased I read it because nothing was quite so black and white as it seemed from the synopsis. Another blogger told me that there was far more going on and that gave me the push to give it a go!

  7. I haven’t decided if I definitely want to read this one but the why and what happened has me really intrigued and the red herrings are probably really well done. It is on my list so I’m sure I will get to it next year, we will see.

    Happy Holidays Cleo

  8. I don’t know what all the fuss about leaving babies alone is. Surely so long as they have food and water, a litter tray and a baby-flap in the back door, they’ll be fine? Humans! They do make such a fuss!

    (This comment is from me, Tuppence – filling in for my servant who is busy wrapping my Christmas presents…)

  9. Great review I agree with you about all of the plot twists. I was watching the Social and they reviewed the book, most of them giving it 3.5, the mothers thought it was too hard to read because it was one of their biggest fears. It’s interesting as will many books how you bring your personal connections to it when reading.

  10. I did not pick this book for the same reason. The thought of leaving a baby on its own is unnatural to me, but I am glad to know there’s more to the story than just this and the plot seems filled with hints and clues that make the mind go wild on all scenarios, which is something I love. I’ve changed my mind, I need to give this one a go! 🙂

  11. I have heard a lot about this book, and then I couldn’t find any reviews, and now your review is up! I think the premise sounds fantastic, and it’s every parent nightmare (and has some uncanny similarities with the Madeleine McCann case, doesn’t it). Sounds totally up my alley. Thanks for the review and for being honest about how every chapter proved your theories wrong. I LOVE it when crime books do that.

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