Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Bookworm’s Fantasy! I hope you’re all doing well. Today I’m posting my review of Shari Lapena’s fantastic psychological thriller, ‘A Stranger In The House’. I’ve read all of Lapena’s books now, and have really enjoyed them all! Keep reading to discover my thoughts…
Why would you run scared from a happy home?
You’re waiting for your beloved husband to get home from work. You’re making dinner, looking forward to hearing about his day.
That’s the last thing you remember.
You wake up in hospital, with no idea how you got there. They tell you that you were in an accident; you lost control of your car whilst driving in a dangerous part of town.
The police suspect you were up to no good. But your husband refuses to believe it. Your best friend isn’t so sure. And even you don’t know what to believe . . .
** TRIGGER WARNING ** Contains repeated references to a violent gun crime. Explores the theme of pregnancy and fertility issues. Also explores the theme of domestic violence, including both physical and emotional abuse. Contains explicit scenes of a sexual nature.
‘A Stranger In The House’ (2017) is Shari Lapena’s second novel, following on from ‘The Couple Next Door’ (2016). Lapena has since released another novel, titled ‘An Unwanted Guest’ (July 2018). Lapena worked as a lawyer and an English teacher before writing fiction.
The novel has received many positive reviews, from the likes of Heat: “Smart, twisty thriller”, Bustle: “A Stranger In The House will have you sleeping with the lights on for weeks” and Metro: “Creeping sense of dread throughout … a firecracker of a plot twist”. Many fellow authors also praised the book, such as Fiona Barton: “Shari expertly traps you, confounds you and leaves you gasping at the end”, Linwood Barclay: “So many dizzying twists” and C.L. Taylor: “This utterly riveting psychological thriller hurtles along at breakneck speed, never giving you the opportunity to catch your breath”.
‘A Stranger In The House’ explores the comfortable, seemingly-perfect domestic relationship, which is thrown into turmoil when Karen is accused of a terrible crime. Karen wakes up in the hospital one day, with no memory of what happened the night before. She insists that there’s no way she could have committed the crime she is being accused of…
The narrative is told from a third-person, omniscient point of view, which focuses in on the character in question. The narration is all-knowing, giving the reader a deep understanding and insight to the characters’ thoughts, feelings and actions. The narrative is very simple to follow, but also very effective.
My favourite character in the novel is Karen. She’s the perfect housewife, devoted to looking after the house and pleasing her husband. She loves Tom, and there’s nothing she wouldn’t do for him. But it soon becomes clear that there’s much more to her than first meets the eye, and she has some secrets buried deep inside. She has a troubled past which she keeps hidden away, and she will do anything to make sure her past doesn’t catch up with her. She’s a very interesting, three-dimensional character, and I really enjoyed learning more about her as the book went on.
Karen’s husband Tom is another seemingly-perfect character. He has a good, stable job as an accountant, and him and his wife have a very strong relationship. He’s hard-working and strong-willed, but he’s also sensitive and cares deeply about his wife. He’s made some mistakes in the past, but he’s determined to protect his wife and move forwards. However, there’s more to him than first meets the eye too. When his wife is accused of the crime, he finds that he’s capable of things he would never have dreamed of doing, and he is changed forever. I really liked Tom, and felt he was a very believable and realistic character.
Brigid is Karen’s best friend, and she lives opposite the couple. Brigid is a very unlikeable character, and she has some strange habits and tendencies. Her own marriage with her husband is breaking down, and she spends her time alone in the house, knitting or watching her neighbours. She’s obsessive and possessive, and will stop at nothing to get her own way. At first, she is supportive of her friend and doesn’t believe that Karen could be capable of such a horrific crime…but then, Brigid’s intentions change, and her relationship with the couple spirals downwards. Brigid is a very interesting character, and I really enjoyed reading the events from her viewpoint.
Other characters in the novel include: Dan (Tom’s brother), Bob (Brigid’s husband), Calvin (Karen’s lawyer), Officer Fleming, Detective Rasbach, and various other members of the police force. There’s a relatively small cast of characters in the novel, but all are very important in their own way and vital to the story.
** TRIGGER WARNING ** The novel contains repeated references to a violent gun crime, in which the victim was shot multiple times. The grizzly details about this crime are explored in detail, including the gunshot wounds. The novel also makes references to pregnancy and fertility issues. The theme of domestic violence is explored in some detail, including references to both emotional and physical abuse. Finally, the novel includes scenes of a sexual nature, which are described in explicit detail. All of these issues are addressed with appropriate sensitivity, but if any of these issues may trigger a negative response, I suggest you skip this book.
As the narrative motors forwards, the case becomes more and more complicated. It seems impossible to work out who did it, and the reader has a hard time of recognising who is telling the truth and who is lying. More witnesses come forwards, and more information is disclosed, which muddies the case even further. Will they ever find out who did it?
So, let’s talk about the ending! There’s a shocking twist which I definitely never saw coming! We discover the truth about all of the characters’ shocking pasts, and some deep secrets are revealed. The twist is dramatic and totally bizarre, and it changes the entire course of the novel. There’s no dramatic end scene as such, more the gradual shocking reveals of the truth. I really enjoyed and appreciated the ending, and felt that it tied together the events of the novel brilliantly.
Overall, I highly recommend this novel to those of you who enjoy psychological thrillers, particularly if you enjoy reading about domestic relationships and hidden pasts. The characters are all fantastically written, and the novel is full of twists and turns! The only criticism I have is that the pace was a bit too slow for me at the beginning, and I struggled to get into the book. But once the story got going, I really was hooked! A compelling read.
Happy reading 🙂