Book Reviews

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

28815474I didn’t really know much about the story going into it except that it was marketed to be one of the IT thrillers of late last year. Unfortunately, it did not live up to the hype that others of its kind (Woman in Cabin 10, The Good Girl, etc.) did. The plot was interesting enough in the beginning, but I don’t think it was executed well. It opens with Anne and Marco at a dinner party with their next door neighbors, Cynthia and Graham. Cynthia isn’t a kid person, so she asked that the couple leave their six month old baby at home with a babysitter. At the last minute, the babysitter has to cancel, so what do the parents do? Stay home? Nope, they leave the baby alone and bring a broken (no visual, only sound) video monitor to the dinner party with them. I was already rolling my eyes at these two at this point. Marco was terribly unlikable, but not in the Nick Dunne Gone Girl kind of way where you hate him but you kind of like him at the same time. Nope, this guy just seemed skeevy and had my hackles up from the start. Anne seemed nice enough except for the fact that she had the backbone of a dishrag and let everyone else (Marco, her parents) make decisions for her. I couldn’t find myself sympathizing with her because of her poor choices.

Anyway, so they are at this dinner party where Anne is miserable and wants to go home, but Marco is having a great time flirty with Cynthia to leave. Because the baby is alone, the two rotate and go every thirty minutes to check on her. Finally they end up leaving only to find the front door partially open. Anne rushes up to check on the baby, and BAM! No baby. Someone has taken the baby. The police get called, and enter my favorite character of the story, the detective. His BS detector went off immediately with these two. Who just leaves their six month old baby alone and goes to a dinner party and gets hammered? The detective had been around the block enough times to know there had to be more to the story, and in the end, his instinct proved correct.

Most of the book was spent building up to the big SOMETHING and dropping little hints here and there. We don’t know who took the baby or if the parents were involved until almost halfway through. Once the real story starts coming out, the author just drops little bread crumbs here and there for us to pick up and speculate. To be honest, it was quite boring and I found myself wanting to skip ahead to see when something would eventually happen. I stuck it out and saw it through, but I wish I would’ve just spoiled myself. We find out who (not surprising, by the way) took the baby way before the end of the book, and I braced myself for what possibly could happen next. The twist is surprising, but it just took so long to get there. By the time the whole convoluted story came together, I found myself really not caring. I think this book could have easily been shortened by a hundred pages. The ending scene could have been left out entirely, because, seriously, WTF was that. I hated the ending. HATED it. I don’t know if Lapena plans on writing a sequel which is why she left it open to a brand new story line, or if she just tried to go for a big shocker or what. Not a fan.

To recap for you if you’ve stuck with me this long, the characters were bland as oatmeal. The story drug on and on. Did I hate the book as a whole? Well, it might sound like I did, but it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve read. I think it would be translate better into a movie (since most thrillers are being adapted that way anyway). Honestly, I would skip this one if you are an avid thriller or suspense reader because you will sadly be let down.

3 stars

-Leah

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