Length: 301 pages
My rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Anne and Marco Conti have a happy marriage and a beautiful six-month-old baby girl, Cora. They’re invited to the home of the couple whose home is adjacent to theirs (and attached to theirs by a shared wall) for dinner. When the babysitter cancels, they decide to go anyway, choosing to carry their baby monitor with them and taking turns to check on baby Cora every half hour.
But the house is deathly silent when they finally return for the night, a mere 45 minutes after they’ve checked on Cora last. When Anne and Marco rush to her room, their worst fears are realized. Her crib is empty. Cora is gone. The police are called and Detective Rasbach is determined not to leave any stone unturned. When his suspicions land on Anne and Marco, the strain in the marriage that the couple had tried desperately to ignore threatens to overwhelm them. Soon, old secrets are forced into the open, secrets that will change the very perception they have of one another. As Anne and Marco’s relationship threatens to unravel, another question hangs over them – Who has taken Cora and where is she now? Can they overcome their own problems in time to find their daughter? Or is baby Cora dead already?
The Bottom Line:
A book with lots of twists and turns, many of which are unexpected, and a storyline that’s engaging enough, but with annoying-as-hell characters and an irritating point-of-view of writing.
A while ago, I’d read a book called The Neighbor by Joseph Souza. That was a really annoying book and I remember not liking it at all (my full review of The Neighbor is here). The Couple Next Door gives off more or less the same vibes as The Neighbor.
What the book has going for it is an intricately woven storyline that’s got a lot of unexpected (and some predictable) twists. The suspense and air of mystery are good. It also moves fast (enough).
But what renders a lot of that pointless is that you just don’t care about any of the characters or associate with them. Sure, you want to know what happened, but that’s more for the sake of the mystery than for your desire that the characters get closure.
Most of the characters spend a lot of time just whining. I’m sure that if life ever presents you with a situation as terrible as your child being abducted, you’d be upset. And rightfully so. But somehow their grief comes across more as whining instead of anything that can garner empathy and sympathy from the reader.
Also, the tenses in which the book is written is just incredibly annoying. I’ve never been a big fan of the first person POV, but have learned to like it over time, especially with so many authors now using it. But this has some present continuous thing going on, with the past tense just thrown in randomly, and that was incredibly annoying to read. Also, Lapena keeps moving between POVs of different characters in the same segment, which is not something that a lot of authors can achieve successfully, and Lapena sure doesn’t.
The only redeeming thing about this book is that it has a good storyline. But is that enough to recommend the book? I’d say read The Couple Next Door only if you like books like The Neighbor or The Wife Between Us (haven’t read the latter but I know the story). If you’re looking for an engaging thriller, skip The Couple Next Door and pick up something else. It checks off a lot of boxes on plot, but skips a lot more on presentation, characterization, and reader association. As a result, it’s fine as a mystery, but with no elements that make it an engaging, thrilling read that you’ll remember for days, weeks, or months to come.
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