Thursday, 24 March 2016

Book Review: THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR by Shari Lapena

The Couple Next Door

The Couple Next Door
Author: Shari Lapena
Publisher: Random House UK, Transworld Publishers
Read: March 2016
Expected publication: 14 July 2016

Synopsis (Goodreads):

You never know what's happening on the other side of the wall.

Your neighbour told you that she didn't want your six-month-old daughter at the dinner party. Nothing personal, she just couldn't stand her crying.

Your husband said it would be fine. After all, you only live next door. You'll have the baby monitor and you'll take it in turns to go back every half hour.

Your daughter was sleeping when you checked on her last. But now, as you race up the stairs in your deathly quiet house, your worst fears are realized. She's gone.

You've never had to call the police before. But now they're in your home, and who knows what they'll find there.

What would you be capable of, when pushed past your limit?

My thoughts:

Imagine this: you are a young couple with a small baby, and have been invited to the neighbour’s house for a birthday dinner. They are a childless couple with little patience for the child’s crying and have requested that you don’t bring the baby. At the last minute, your babysitter cancels. You think – we could still go if we take the baby monitor and check on the child every half hour. After all, it’s only next door. It’s really no different than being in the next room – right?

This is how Ann and Marco justify their decision to leave their baby daughter Cora asleep in the house whilst they go to their neighbour’s place for dinner. Actually, Ann is not all that keen, but she has been suffering from postnatal depression and knows that her friends are getting frustrated with her and that she should force herself to go out more, be social. And for most of the evening all goes well. They take turns to check the baby at regular intervals, feed her, settle her. But Marco has been drinking a lot and is flirting shamelessly with the glamorous Cynthia, and Ann really wants to go home to bed. She is sure that she locked the front door of her house when she last checked on her daughter, but it now stands wide open. Sprinting upstairs she stares at the empty crib – in the half hour between now the last check, her baby has gone ...

This situation must be a parent’s worst nightmare and will prompt every reader with children to quickly sneak upstairs to check they are safe. It therefore makes great material for a psychological thriller, tugging on readers’ heartstrings no matter what age or gender you are. Ironically, I grew up in an era where it was totally acceptable to leave your baby at home whilst going to the neighbour’s place with the baby monitor and regular checking – I realised how times have changed when reading the outrage Ann and Marco are confronted with due to their decision but could not resent them for it. The author does a great job in portraying the real life struggles a young couple would face on having a new baby in the house – Ann with her postnatal depression and Marco with business woes he is too afraid to mention to his wife. Then there are Ann’s parents, who have resented Marco from the moment he proposed to Ann, and are not helping the situation. Give them a break, I thought, they are only human. Little did I realise what would come next, and I will certainly not give anything away here and spoil your fun of finding out for yourself. Just be prepared to be surprised, stunned even, about the lies, the deceit, the manipulation and outright evil some people are capable of to get what they want.

This is the type of psychological thriller where perfectly ordinary and decent people get entangled in a web of lies and deceit that makes their lives spiral more and more out of control with every action they take – which makes it all the more compelling to read, as it is so easy to put yourself in the characters’ shoes. In amongst this chaos put Detective Rasbach, who has the thankless task of following the convoluted leads in order to bring little Cora home alive – an outcome which seems more and more impossible as time goes on. Rasbach is not easily rattled, which is something that cannot be said for the rest of the characters, who make some very poor decisions along the way. With the story being told in multiple POVs, there were times when the author almost gave too much away for my liking, but the ending was so unexpected that it totally blindsided me and made up for the times when I though I had worked it all out.

The Couple Next Door is a well-written and enjoyable debut novel by a promising new voice in psychological suspense. Watch out for it - recommended reading. 

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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