Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Bookworm’s Fantasy! I hope you’re all doing well. Today I’m going to be posting my review of Shari Lapena’s novel, ‘The Couple Next Door.’ I really enjoyed every single page, and I just had to review it for you! So, keep reading to discover my thoughts…
** TRIGGER WARNING ** Contains scenes of a sexual nature, references to acts of physical violence and abduction/kidnapping, and references to various mental illnesses.
‘The Couple Next Door’ was a Sunday Times Bestseller, and was labelled as “The most talked-about thriller of the year .” It is Shari Lapena’s debut thriller novel, and was released in July 2016. Her latest novel, ‘A Stranger In The House,’ is due to be released on the 27th July 2017. Lapena was a lawyer and an English teacher, before she turned to writing fiction. She lives in Toronto, Canada.
It received much positive praise, for example from The Times: “Shari Lapena furnishes a clever array of motives and suspects,” and Metro: “Lapena leads us on a cunningly plotted cat-and-mouse trail […] building a horribly queasy portrait of a marriage under terrific strain.” Many fellow authors also praised the novel, such as Tess Gerritsen: “A twisty, utterly riveting tale,” Harlan Coben: “Meticulously crafted and razor sharp,” and Lee Child: “Real men read women writers – because of books like this.”
‘The Couple Next Door’ had me gripped right from the very beginning. It essentially follows the disappearance of Marco and Anne’s baby daughter Cora, who is taken from her bed one night whilst the couple attend a dinner party next door. The couple are racked with guilt, and as the investigation continues, more and more secrets and betrayals are revealed…
The narrative is told in the third-person and follows the experiences of Anne, Marco, Detective Rasbach and Jennings, the couple’s next door neighbour Cynthia, and Anne’s parents Richard and Alice. The narrative provides an in-depth and detailed analysis of all of the characters, as they attempt to piece together the puzzle that is Cora’s disappearance.
Anne and Marco are the central protagonists. Anne, suffering with Postpartum (or Postnatal) depression after the birth of her daughter Cora, is racked with guilt and anxiety after her disappearance. She struggles to cope emotionally, and seeks comfort from her parents and husband. Her motherly instincts take over, and she will ultimately do anything to save her daughter. But of course, she has a few secrets lurking in her own past. Anne was my favourite character by far, as I found myself really able to identify with her.
Marco is strong and determined, and puts on a brave face to support his wife. But deep down he is really struggling to come to terms with what has happened, and Cora’s disappearance challenges everything he thought he knew. I flitted between hating Marco and feeling sympathy for him, and if you read the book you’ll discover why. He makes some major mistakes, and must pay the price for them. Marco is a much more complex character than he first appears to be.
The other minor characters are all excellently portrayed. Rasbach and Jennings attempt to solve the case as efficiently as they can, but when lots of new clues and curveballs are thrown in, the investigation becomes difficult. Anne’s parents Richard and Alice are incredibly rich, and it seems they will do anything to get their grandchild back. And the neighbours Cynthia and Graham are much more complex than they first appear to be.
** TRIGGER WARNING ** This novel contains implicit scenes of a sexual nature which may be uncomfortable for some readers. It also contains more explicit descriptions of acts of violence, and multiple references to abduction and kidnapping. The novel also contains references to Postpartum depression, anxiety and dissociative disorder. If any of these issues may be triggering for you, I suggest you skip this book.
As the narrative goes on, more and more mysteries and secrets are revealed. This is a novel where you think you know where the story is going – but then Lapena throws in a clever curveball, and all expectations are reversed. There is an excellent attention to detail in this highly-complex narrative – it’s a “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” kind of narrative. It does require lots of concentration and attention from the reader, but is definitely worth it in my opinion.
So, let’s talk about the ending. I have to say that I was pretty disappointed with the final ending, and to me that majorly let the book down. I was pleased with what I thought was the final revelation, as it gave a sense of hope for the future of the characters. But then Lapena throws in a new element to the story, and to me it just seemed unnecessary and too exaggerated to be deemed as realistic. You may enjoy the ending if you’re looking for action or violence, but it really wasn’t for me…and the portrayal of the mentally ill character was actually quite offensive.
Overall, I highly recommend this novel to those of you who like domestic thrillers, particularly if you enjoy reading complex, multi-layered plots. It has excellently-constructed characters, plenty of mystery and suspense, and killer twists. The ending did really disappoint me, but don’t let that put you off – you might enjoy it! A great read.
Happy reading 🙂