Review: The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

When the babysitter cancels, Anne and Marco reluctantly leave their baby alone whilst they go next door to the ‘adults only’ dinner party. Anne already has a bad feeling about it – they’ve got the baby monitor with them but the screen is smashed, she’s had too much to drink, and Marco and their neighbour Cynthia are flirting relentlessly. It gets so much worse though. When they finally roll home at gone 1am, they discover an open front door and an empty crib. Baby Cora has been taken. Shari Lapena takes us on a fast-paced, page-turning journey through the Contis’ grief, their fight to find their baby, the hunt for the kidnapper, and the fear that the kidnapper just may well be the last person they expected.

It took me quite a while to get into this book. The characters are little more than caricatures, the situation – at least initially – is a little cliched (and with more than a vague resemblance to the McCann story), and the writing is…well…let’s just say it grated on me until the story gripped me enough to look past it. Surely one of the first rules of writing is that you don’t start every sentence with the same word and yet, for the first page or two of this book, every sentence starts with ‘Anne’. The writing was stilted and childlike, and as a result, I almost gave up.

I’m glad I didn’t though. The spiral of the story mirrored the spiral of the parents’ grief and once I got over my initial dislike, I raced through the rest of the pages in a matter of hours with a desperate need to know ‘who dun it’. It’s quite nice that, unlike other thrillers, you discover the identity of the culprit early on, and then bit by bit learn the twists and turns of how it all came about. The solution at the end is certainly convoluted, convenient, and possibly (probably) a little unrealistic but for me, that didn’t matter. There were red-herrings throughout that kept my brain racing to come up with a solution, and enough hints that the ending still tied in to the rest of the story, yet I didn’t work it out for myself (at least not all of it).

It’s a good, fast-paced page-turner, with a tale that will keep you entertained throughout, but if you are looking for something different, this book isn’t for you. It fits firmly into the swathe of thrillers like this that have been released in the last year or two, making it enjoyable but not particularly unique. The writing and the characters may put you off at first too, but don’t let it – push past any initial reservations and let the story take you away. It’ll be a quick, gripping read that’ll provide you with entertainment for as long as you let it.

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