Thursday, 8 June 2017

Book Review: A STRANGER IN THE HOUSE by Shari Lapena

Author: Shari Lapena
Random House UK, Transworld Publishers
June 2017
Expected publication: 27 July 2017
My Rating:🌟🌟1/2

Book Description (Goodreads):

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 . . .

My musings:

The book starts out strong: a man comes home from work to find the house unlocked and his wife’s car gone. The kitchen shows signs of dinner being prepared: a pot of water on the stove, vegetables chopped on the kitchen counter. He calls for his wife but there is no answer. She has left behind her purse and her mobile. Worried, he begins calling her friends, their neighbours, but no one has seen her. Then a policeman knocks on the door ....  Lapena really sets the scene here, and I actually had goosebumps visualising it!

Unfortunately, from here, the books began nosediving for me, like a shot-down plane on its fiery spiral into the abyss. Perhaps the first warning sign was the main protagonist’s amnesia. Don’t get me wrong, amnesia can be a good tool in a psychological thriller if used the right way. Include a few confusing flashbacks, some conflicting witness stories, some inner turmoil, some suspense. But not on its own, not simply to disguise the plot by throwing the big dark blanket of “I can’t remember” over everything just as an excuse to withhold vital information to the reader that could solve this “mystery” in two minutes flat.

A Stranger in the House is a book with very few characters. Tom, Karen and Brigid from next door. And of course the detective, whose name I have already forgotten because for me, he felt like a very forgettable character. There wasn’t a single personality trait to the man that made him stand out from any other run-of-the-mill detective, except that he did not seem to be particularly good at his job.  I was surprised to discover that this was the same detective from The Couple Next Door, the author’s debut novel, which I had enjoyed. Anyway, the problem with a very small cast is that unless they are engaging and captivating, the reader soon loses interest. I thought my life was pretty boring, but compared to this little troupe my social life is a downright circus!  There are no friends, no family, no work colleagues. And to be totally honest, I hated all three characters. So now we have a problem, because I really didn’t care what happens to any of them, especially Brigid, who seemed so stereotypical that I was wondering at times if the author was writing tongue-in-cheek to throw some wild curveball right at the end. But sadly, no.

I am sure that A Stranger in the House will appeal to an audience who is less particular about their fare of “psychological thriller”. The bottom line is – I do want to be thrilled. I want my mind messed with. I want tension, I want suspense. After enjoying The Couple Next Door, it saddens me having to admit that I did not get any of this from A Stranger in the House, even though there were moments when there was real potential for it to become interesting. 


After having read a few disappointing “psychological thrillers” lately, I believe that I may simply not be the right audience for A Stranger in the House. It may appeal to people who enjoy a quick and undemanding read for the beach or the plane, but for me was lacking in depth and thrills. 

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

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