The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
Review by Lesley Vick.
Bantam Press, Ontario Limited 2016
You never know what’s happening on the other side of the wall. Your neighbour told you 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 realised. She’s gone. You’ve never had to call the police before. But now they are in your home, and who knows what they’ll find there. What would you be capable of, when pushed past your limit?
Reviewer: Lesley Vick
The ultimate nightmare of a missing baby, Cora, launches a tensely plotted story which keeps you guessing until the end. The present tense narration and the insights into the minds of the critical characters helps to maintain the suspense. Cora’s parents, Anne and Marco, Anne’s wealthy parents, mother Alice and stepfather Richard, and the next door neighbours, Cynthia and Graham, are a pretty unappealing bunch of people but are they involved with the disappearance of the child?
Detective Rasbach is unconvinced about the possibility of an intruder having taken the baby – especially as there is no immediate ransom demand – and he suspects that everyone is hiding something.
Marco and Anne’s marriage has been under stress since Cora’s birth as Anne has been suffering depression and during the dinner party Cynthia has been openly flirting with Marco. Marco has been concealing from Anne the difficulties his business is confronting and the hostility Anne’s parents have towards him as an unsuitable partner for their treasured daughter compounds the situation.
As the story progresses, the secrets all the characters have been keeping are gradually revealed. The plot twists of the story mount up, suspicion falls on each person in turn and the mystery is sustained. The reader does not know who to trust and the pace of the narrative keeps up until the end. Even then there is one final, shocking twist. This is an impressive debut thriller from the former lawyer and English teacher.