Kate’s Review: “The Couple Next Door”

28815474Book: “The Couple Next Door” by Shari Lapena

Publishing Info: Pamela Dorman Books, August 2016

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: How well do you know the couple next door? Or your husband? Or even—yourself?  

People are capable of almost anything. . . 
Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all—a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately focuses on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story.

Inside the curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something. Both Anne and Marco  soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they’ve kept for years. 

What follows is the nerve-racking unraveling of a family—a chilling tale of  deception, duplicity, and unfaithfulness that will keep you breathless until the final shocking twist.

Review: Whenever I pick up a grit-lit thriller novel, I like to try and guess what the big messy twist is going to be. If I go off of logistics of the story and my previous knowledge of the genre, I can sometimes guess some of the twists and turns that are coming up. Barring, of course, that the author either does a really good job of concealing their twists, or brings twists out of nowhere that make little to no sense whatsoever. I can tell you that “The Couple Next Door” has a little bit of both, which flip flopped between the frustrating and the satisfying.

So even though the description is vague, I’m sure that you can guess that the terrible crime that is committed is that baby Cora disappears from her crib while Anne and Marco are at the dinner party in the adjoining home of the duplex. So the question becomes who is behind it? The police, specifically Detective Rasbach, is convinced that it has to be either Anne or Marco. I had made my own predictions about thirty pages in (as Serena can attest to, as she was there when I was spouting off my theories). I’m pretty happy to say that my predictions were pretty wrong, but that isn’t to say that this book wasn’t devoid of issues. Neither Marco nor Anne had a lot of shining moments, and I had issues with both of these characters and how they were portrayed. I’m glad that there weren’t any reckless depictions of post-partum depression, but Anne as a whole wasn’t very interesting, being an incredibly passive player in this entire thing. It’s not that I wanted her to go out and kick people’s teeth in until she found her baby, but I wanted more than her being in a constant state of victimization and having things happen to her instead of making things happen (except late, late, LATE in the game. But a bit more on that later). And then there’s Marco, who manages to make every single terrible decision a person could make in his situation, so while I know that we are probably supposed to feel a teeny bit of sympathy for him, boy I sure didn’t. One of the twists involving him was a surprise, but it made sense, and it just accentuated his stupidity even more. As for the side characters, they were fine, but they did feel like they were just the same old characters that we get in these stories: the slutty neighbor who doesn’t care who she hurts, the cold and judgmental in laws, and the hardened but nonetheless affected detective. They served their purpose, but they weren’t exactly reinventing the wheel, and when the protagonists weren’t really endearing themselves to me it was all the more glaring.

I also need to take a moment to lambast the ending. I am going to avoid giving spoilers here because I do think that this book is worth reading if you like thrillers and grit lit. But be warned, the ending is incredibly, INCREDIBLY tacked on and unnecessary. Especially given the implications that it has about other mental illnesses, as while Lapena was pretty good in her portrayal of post-partum depression she was not as great at other depictions of other disorders. When the big ‘final’ twist as referenced in the description came up, I was pretty miffed and turned off. It was out of place and aggravating. We didn’t need that one last twist. And it derailed the entire story for me.

Ridiculous twist aside, as I mentioned before other reveals and surprises made a lot of sense and did keep me on my toes. I thought that I would be able to predict a lot of it, but I found myself unable to put it down because of the need to now what was going to happen. Lapena does a very good job of parsing out her story, putting the pieces into place in a meticulous and well thought out way. I think that ultimately what I look for in a story like this is whether or not the plot keeps me guessing, and “The Couple Next Door” achieved that. If you are just looking for an entertaining thriller, and can look past the less fleshed out characterizations and ridiculous ending, “The Couple Next Door” is probably a good choice. I don’t regret reading it, I just wish that it had been a bit more.

Rating 6: The plot itself was pretty solid, but the main characters were lacking. Add in a ridiculous ending and it wasn’t what it could have been.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Couple Next Door” is included on these Goodreads lists: “Female Psychological Thriller/Suspense”, and “2016: What Women Born in the 1970s Have Read So Far This Year”.

Find “The Couple Next Door” at your library using WorldCat!

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