Book Review #56 – The Couple Next Door

He can’t afford to become emotionally invested in his cases. He would never survive – Shari Lapena.

The Couple Next Door has been on everybody’s lips for quite a while. I remember seeing so many commuters reading it on their bus journeys to and from work; I knew it was high on the nation’s must-read list, but I can’t help but feel a little flat after completing the story. When I think back to how I felt after reading The Girl on The Train and Gone Girl, I was shocked to the core. I didn’t see the twists and turns coming until just before the very last moment. Nevertheless, with Lapena’s novel, I guessed multiple theories, which I admit, I was wrong about, but the real culprit wasn’t so shocking, and neither were their motives. In a sense, I see The Couple Next Door as more of a detective story, rather than a thriller. It is exciting to read, but I wasn’t consumed whole by it.

It all begins at a Friday night dinner party.

Anne and Marco are having dinner at their neighbour’s house. Anne doesn’t much like the glamorous, flirtatious hostess, Cynthia, who used to be a close friend. She is disgruntled, and a little drunk, after arguing with Marco about leaving their six month baby asleep next door. Alone. They take turns every half an hour to check on her. Baby Cora is absolutely fine, until she has disappeared some time between 12.30am and 1.10am on Saturday morning.

Cue the chaos.

Anne has an absolute meltdown. She screeches and screams. She punches Marco’s reflection in the bathroom mirror. After all, it is his fault. It was his idea. But, she went along with it, too. They pace the rooms. The police are called. A Detective Rasbach is calm, serene and quizzical. He senses there is more than this seemingly normal couple are letting on. He doesn’t realise how much at the beginning, but he figures it all out by the middle of the book.

There are twists and turns throughout the novel, to keep you guessing. Each time you think you have figured it out, another stem will catapult from the story’s centre to demolish it. You’ll ask yourselves more questions, until it is all finally over. I would have preferred a different turn of events for Anne earlier in the book. I thought I had it all figured out, and to be honest, I quite like my version better. If you are interested to know it, and have read the book, find me on Twitter or Instagram (@fayebelinexo) so we can discuss! With her depression and childhood illness, I thought it would have been such an interesting move to let the events play out as they did in my own head. That, personally, would have been more thriller-like, rather than the narrative printed.

I would have also liked the kidnapping to be a little more covered up. It is so hard to talk about without giving any spoilers! We know who the initial culprit is at least half way through the book; I would have preferred to keep guessing that one. Nevertheless, there are so many layers to this crime; it does keep all cards on the table.

I didn’t connect with any of the characters. Perhaps it was the way the book was written, with its short, gripping sentences and each word crucial to keeping things matter-of-fact. I understood the turmoil and the guilt, the horrendous crime that was bestowed on them. However, their emotions seemed somewhat flawed in some way, and the relationships were ruined. None of them impacted me in any way. If there is anything good about stories, in my eyes, the characters have to be relatable. I relate to the what ifs and if only moments – we have all had them albeit most not on this scale – but I didn’t feel any love, or love loss there, as though I was only an outsider, and not in the centrefold of the story’s corrupted heart.

Many read this book in one sitting; it only took me four, but if I loved it more, it would have taken me less. There were points that kept my mind reeling. On the most part, however, it was a slight disappointment. Thrillers are hard, and they have to be excellent. I enjoyed it to an extent; I didn’t give up reading it. Plus, I loved the ending. That final chapter was what I saw coming in a small way. The perfect last twist, and a cliffhanger, too.

Have you read The Couple Next Door? What are your thoughts?

Love, Faye xo

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