The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena: This month’s CUB magazine’s must-read!
“A thrilling suspense novel that has you hooked from the very first chapter”
Anne and Marco’s next-door neighbours, Cynthia and Graham, invite them over for dinner. But Cynthia has requested that they leave their six-month-old daughter, Cora, at home. It is nothing personal, she just cannot stand the crying. Marco reassures Anne that it will be fine; they’ll check on Cora every half hour and take the baby monitor next door with them. The first few checks go well. Anne feeds her, and Cora falls asleep. Time soon ticks by and Anne is keen to leave and check on her baby. When she and Marco go home, they find their front door ajar and the house eerily quiet. Racing upstairs and fearing the worst, Anne approaches Cora’s crib and finds it empty. So, what did happen to Cora, and who is responsible for her disappearance?
The plot of this novel is so tense that after finishing just the first chapter, I was immediately hooked. I knew this was going to be a book that would not allow its reader respite from the tension. Whilst the story seems simple, it soon becomes complicated, as Lapena invites her reader to suspect multiple characters as the culprit. There are plenty of unexpected twists and turns that you have no idea as to what will happen next, rendering this novel a quintessential page-turner.
Anne is a character that you cannot help but sympathise with. She endures so much, from her medical condition and her baby disappearing to Marco’s actions and Cynthia’s cold-heartedness. When you witness everything she suffers, you imagine yourself in her situation and subsequently begin to question how she survives as well as she does. Marco is a man that you have mixed feelings about; sometimes you feel sympathetic towards him for what has happened to him, but at other times you are shocked at his conduct and regard him as utterly despicable. Lapena incites her reader to judge Marco as if he were on trial, which leaves you emotionally and morally torn.
Rasbach is the tenacious detective who is very reserved and gives nothing away to both his suspects and the reader. Although Anne and Marco are the primary focus of the novel as Lapena describes how they are coping, Rasbach is a character you really have to be mindful of; he is quietly lurking in the background, slowly but surely solving the case. When he reveals all secrets, you admire him not only for his sleuthing skills but also for his ability and determination to believe in the imperceptible when others will not.
Equally, there are characters that you despise for their behaviours. Cynthia, whilst extremely attractive, is calculating, unscrupulous and will not hesitate to use others’ misfortunes for her own personal gain. She is a classic example of how appearances can be deceiving. Moreover, Lapena moulds Richard into the smug, self-righteous and arrogant father-in-law that you detest just as much as Marco does. As you are reading, you really hope Richard will receive his comeuppance.
Overall, The Couple Next Door is a novel that takes its reader on a thrilling rollercoaster ride that leaves you completely breathless. Lapena stimulates her reader to suspect almost every character and emotionally draws you in. Once you begin this book, you will not be able to put it down.
The Couple Next Door is available in bookstores and online in paperback, hardback and kindle formats.