Wednesday, 14 March 2018

The Couple Next Door - Shari Lapena
A tense domestic thriller that starts brilliantly.

Canadian novelist Shari Lapena's The Couple Next Door is indeed a much talked about thriller as the jacket proclaims. It has drummed a lot of attention which is why I went around looking for it. Her bio reads that she was a lawyer and an English teacher before she turned to writing. That experience surely must have helped us as she combines her knowledge of police procedures and writing style to form a riveting plot for her story.


It starts off brilliantly. The story opens with a set of new parents at their next door neighbour's party. The opening scene is brilliant, it is tense, there is a lot happening and draws you in completely. It showed my student self how opening scenes are done. Superb. The mother is tearful, she is watching her hostess flirting with her husband as she battles feelings of hopelessness and low self esteem as a new mother. By the end of the chapter we learn that the baby has disappeared from its cot while the couple are still partying with their neighbours.

Who did it? How did it happen? Although the couple starts of as victims, they soon find themselves as suspects. Then begins the cat and mouse game of finding out who is telling the truth and crucially who has done it.

What works:
  • It is the stuff that every parent can relate to. The fear of losing a child, the fear of criticism and blame as a new mother. Lapena does it brilliantly. I loved Anne and how she holds on shreds of self esteem while tries to figure what was happening.
  • There are not many characters but Lapena makes them count. I loved the husband and wife. It was exciting to watch how the couple seen as victims turn into suspects. She builds up the tension quite well and I won't lie, it had me up till quite late in the night. 
What does not:
  • The narrative is superb. I kept on turning pages in a rush to get to the end. However, the reveal was not as great as the build up.
  • Halfway through you could see where the plot was leading to and though the writing style was good, it fizzled out a bit for me, as I felt as though Lapena was trying to secondguess the reader.
  • There are lots of twists and turns and there is one that is revealed right at the end but then by that time, it was hard to be surprised at all. The momentum somehow depleted for me.
Overall a great fast track read. It has a great premise and a riveting writing style, just wish the build up was as good as the reveal.

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