Writer: Shari Lapena
Blurb: You never know what’s happening on the other side of the wall. Your neighbour told you that she didn’t want your six-month-old daughter at the dinner party. Nothing personal, she just couldn’t stand her crying. Your husband said it would be fine. After all, you only live next door. You’ll have the baby monitor and you’ll take it in turns to go back every half hour. Your daughter was sleeping when you checked on her last. But now, as you race up the stairs in your deathly quiet house, your worst fears are realized. She’s gone.
I’ve heard this book is considered to be the next best thriller since The Girl on the Train. While it is most certainly a page-turner (I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel this quickly before), I don’t think the storyline or mystery is on par with The Girl on the Train.
Of course, the money’s in the bag within the first couple of chapters. Playing on everyone’s worst fear of having their child go missing is a gripping basis for a novel. But there were a few major flaws to this story that meant that what began as a brilliantly horrifying story soon turns into an un-mysterious tale.
The main reason for this is Detective Rasbach, who is investigating how Anne and Marco Contis’ baby was kidnapped. While it’s good to have a wise and experienced person in charge, like a Miss Marple/Hercule Poirot kind of character, it is not ideal to have a character who is always right. Regretfully his ‘suspicions’ are always proved to be correct within a couple of chapters, giving the game away too early before every twist and turn.
We shouldn’t be inside Rasbach’s head as frequently because his thoughts reveal the mysteries prematurely. It’s like watching a horror film with someone who commentates it: ‘I bet they die’ or ‘I bet there will be an explosion’, then having them promptly proved correct every time. It spoils the surprises.
Secondly, the entire backstory of Anne is rendered unnecessary and useless. I don’t want to give anything away, but her issues are irrelevant and the conclusion to her part of the story wasn’t needed. Yes, it was twisted and scary, but it didn’t actually have anything to do with the main storyline.
While the story is more crime than mystery, it is a novel that will hook you in from the very first page, which I loved.
Ditch the idea of it being an Agatha Christie mystery, and think about it more as a twisted Gillian Flynn-inspired tale about desperate characters risking it all. Appreciate The Couple Next Door for Lapena’s writing technique, brilliant construction of the story and emotional development. But don’t expect much from the storyline itself (thanks to a certain character giving it away all the time).
Jodie’s rating: 5/10