Book Review: The Couple Next Door


About six months back, my Pinterest feed was overflowing with pins recommending books that said “if you like Gone Girl and The Girl On The Train, then this is a must read!” Or “the most exciting book with plot twists you never saw coming!” And without an exception, The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena was a part of almost all of these links.

Now that was all someone like me needed to pick it up. Someone like me, who has grown up on a steady diet of Nancy Drew, The Three Investigators,The Famous Five and of course, the Queen of Suspense, Agatha Christie’s work; eventually landing myself in the Gone Girl and The Girl On The Train fan club. So, yes, I was really looking forward to this much recommended psychological thriller which was “A twisty, utterly riveting tale,” according to Tess Gerritsen. So when my library informed that The Couple Next Door was now in stock, I couldn’t contain my excitement and picked up the book the very same day I was informed of its availability! And did this much talked about debut live up to its expectations?  Read on to know…

The Couple Next Door is Shari Lapena’s debut venture. This is a story about a couple who attend a party next door, leaving their six month old infant daughter in the house unsupervised. All through the night, the parents of the baby take turns checking on her. And when they finally get home around 1am, the baby has disappeared without a trace!

What follows is a twisted emotional tale of unimaginable love, betrayal, family secrets and ugly fallouts of desperation. Scenes unfold and facts are revealed one by one, much like peeling an onion – one secret revealed, only to bring another one to light! Nothing seems like it is in this taut emotional thriller and every time the reader thinks he has figured it out, he is presented with yet another set of facts that tosses everything up in the air again!

As for the positives, every character is well defined and beautifully developed. Each has their own flaws and motivations, which is excellently portrayed. There is nothing black and white, but a lot of scope for ‘grey’ instead. The reader ends up liking all the characters including the flawed protagonists, their blinded-by-love parents (yes, there's a pun intended here; do read the book and let me know if you catch it) and even the clever detective who “misses nothing!”

The writing is crisp. Emotions run amok, but it isn’t a typical tear-jerker, which I mention because of the premise of the book. The language is lucid and the reader is easily drawn into the narrative wanting to know what will come next! The editing, I must say, is very crisp and commendable. The story progresses at a smooth pace, not too fast nor too slow, and periodically delivers shocking revelations with a bang! All in all, The Couple Next Door is an engaging, interesting and a genuine edge-of-the-seat page-turner.

Now that I have waxed on about the positives, I do need to point out that at certain points, especially towards the end, it felt to me, like there were a few too many coincidences. I mean the loose ends were all tied up a little too daintily. Another thing I found not to my liking (but I am sure many readers would actually like,) was the end. For me, there was no need for the last dangling chapter at all; but on a different level, I found it justified too, albeit a bit too harsh. But that's just my opinion.

There's a lot to take away from this pacy read though; and I do not mean the mere lesson that one should never leave their infant unattended, even in the middle of the night (or is it especially in the middle of the night?) A big part of the story reiterates the importance of communication in a relationship – as a husband and wife, mother and daughter, father and daughter; and even that of the suspect and the police! Another take away, is also that a person can go to any lengths when pushed into a wall; but if there is real love in their heart, then even in such a situation, the person knows how far is too far. And last but not the least, becoming parents is a big deal and is stressful on even the best of relationships; but it is important to support each other as a couple, no matter what.

So, did I like it? Yes, I loved it! Would I recommend it? Yes, I definitely would! It is a great read that grips you from the very first page, and never lets you go! And that is my verdict. A good 3.5/4 out of 5 stars!


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