The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
This book grabbed me from the very beginning and I never wanted to put it down. Secrets, lies, and betrayal fill this book from start to finish, and with each twist came another. I did think some of the twists got to be predictable as the book went along, but not until each was revealed and hints given toward the next major plot point. Much of what happened here didn’t strike me as believable, but then, neither did any part of Gone Girl, and I enjoyed that, too.
In The Couple Next Door, a baby left home alone quickly turns into a baby gone missing, and the rest of the book is a fast-paced portrayal of the parents’ efforts to get her back. Nothing is as it seems, however, and everyone is a suspect. Who took baby Cora, and why? This is the question that keeps us reading, even when the surprises are a little less than believable.
Anne Conti, the baby’s mother and one of the main characters, is at once totally sympathetic and completely untrustworthy. How can we trust someone who willingly left her infant home alone, even if she was just next door? And what about the fuzzy moments she admits to? Can we really trust someone who would do these things? And yet, somehow, I couldn’t help but feel awful for her. She’d lost her baby, and nothing could ever make her forgive herself. She blames herself over and over again, as most mothers would, and can’t get past this one wrong decision. But she’s completely devastated, and despite her (along with everyone else) technically being a suspect, I never thought she was involved. Her pain seemed so real, and I couldn’t imagine getting through my child being taken like she did.
Her husband Marco, on the other hand? Him I could totally buy as a suspect. I never liked him from the very first chapter, from when we’re told that he convinced Anne to leave the baby home alone so they could go to a grown-up dinner party. What a jerk! Everything he did from start to finish just bothered me! I didn’t want him to be guilty because that would be even worse from Anne, but I did want him to be guilty because I just didn’t like him at all! He makes a very convincing villain for me, at least in terms of being a bad husband and father.
In this book, you can’t trust anyone. You can’t trust what they say or what they do. You can’t believe that anyone is innocent, because is anyone ever, really, truly, innocent? Not one character, aside from the baby, is even remotely likable. They’re all pretty awful in one way or another, and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was even a good idea for the baby to be surrounded by them all. Somehow, though, all of these terrible characters came together to make a great cast for this book. I loved reading about them and discovering their secrets and guessing at their lies.
I also really loved the ending. I thought it was totally unexpected and a great way to end such a thrilling book. I would definitely read more by this author!
Is this book believable? No, not even close. But is it a great read? Absolutely. I legitimately didn’t want to put it down and couldn’t wait to find out just what had really happened to baby Cora. And because of that, I gave it four stars and recommend reading it if you enjoy psychological thrillers.
*ARC from Penguin Group Viking via NetGalley