Friday, 8 September 2017

Book Review: The Couple Next Door

Over the past couple of months I seem to be drawn to thrillers, which is why I picked up this novel by Shari Lapena. The plot has a lot of promise; an rich couple living in an affluent area leaving their six month old baby in the house alone whilst they attend a dinner party at another couples house. Straightaway, the warning signs are obviously there, but apparently all should be fine as it is only next door and the parents are regularly checking up on their daughter. Add in a cocktail of various alcohol and it is definitely a case of who to believe. Early on in the novel it becomes not only a case of neglect, but also of child abduction; however it begs to question who is truly at fault? Is it the mother suffering from post natal depression, the father who has a business rapidly going under or is it the friends Cynthia and Graham who refused to have a baby come to their house? Anne, the mother blames Marco, the father for persuading her to leave Cora behind with the pretext of regular checkups.

However, nothing is ever as it seems and soon the circle expands to Anne's wealthy parents; strangely, the reader never sees or hears from Marco's family. On the one hand, you feel exceedingly sorry for Anne and Marco as they're living through a parents worst nightmare, but at the same time something doesn't quite add up in places, although they called the Police soon after they realised that Cora was missing from her nursery, everyone is a potential suspect. The Detective leading the investigation is an incredibly astute man and trusts nobody, which isn't a bad thing. The novel is centered around the attempt to find Cora safely alive, although we all know that the likelihood of murder increases after several hours of disappearance.

On the surface all of the characters are respectable, hard working people but this novel really does make you question how well you really know anyone. The literary style is simple, but effective with short, sharp chapters that flit between multiple narrators and it as interesting to look at the investigation from the Detective's perspective in particular. The kidnapper is revealed fairly early on, but the twists seem to never stop; every character seems to be guilty of something but it's a matter of working out what it is that they're guilty of doing. It's not hard to realise that someone is lying, but the question is who is lying? This novel is full of lies, deceit, blackmail, secrets and untrustworthy people. It was hard to know who to place the blame on and impossible to work out who was behind the kidnapping as each character seemed know far more than they wanted to admit.

Overall, this novel is one of the most beautifully crafted pieces that I've read in a while; each character had a fatal flaw that made them difficult to like and impossible to trust. I think I literally pinned the blame onto each one of them at different points as not only were they unlikable, they also seemed to have an undeniable connection with Cora's disappearance. The only character free from dislike was the Detective and honestly, he seemed to share a similar set of ideas to mine throughout the novel, albeit he was a few steps ahead of me. Although the instincts are to blame the parents, no one ever works alone and it this novel is the perfect 'whodunnit' without being obvious in any way. There were so many hints throughout the novel to do with the framework of the crime, but at no point did I guess any of the finale correctly. That is what makes a good book exceptional.

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