The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena – book review

by Edith Cody-Rice

Tthe-couple-next-doorhe Couple Next Door is the debut thriller of Shari Lapena, a lawyer and English teacher turned author, who penned two literary novels prior to embarking on this venture. It was published in Canada in August of this year and currently is number 2 on the Globe and Mail’s bestselling mystery list. A creditable feat for a relatively new author.

Ms. Lapena is a Canadian who divides her time between Toronto and a farm in Coburg. She submitted her manuscript to literary agent Helen Heller in October 2015 and Ms. Heller, who says she turns down 499 of every 500 manuscripts she receives, contacted Shari Lapena the following day.

Just days later, Ms. Heller flew to New York and by the time she returned every publishing house wanted this book. The English version was acquired by Pamela Dorman Books, a Penguin Random House imprint and it was sold at auction in 25 territories around the world

The Couple Next Door was published in Australia and Britain before its North American appearance.

Although not a particularly keen mystery/thriller reader, being one of the few, apparently, who hated Girl on the Train (protagonist was too unsympathetic), I really did enjoy this book.

A young apparently well to do couple goes to a dinner party next door, leaving their 6 month old baby alone in the house with a baby monitor so they can hear her. They check on her throughout the evening, but when they return home after midnight, the baby is gone. Where is the baby and who is the culprit?? And will the baby be found alive?

The story is told through the thoughts and actions of the various characters, the young mother suffering post partem depression, the husband with a failing business, the investigating police officer and various other characters making minor appearances. Back stories are told through the thoughts of these characters. None know what the others are thinking , or doing, but the reader has an insight into them all — except –even with that knowledge there are many surprises and  most of them difficult to guess. Part of the fun is trying to figure out who has done what and for what motive. The mind churns. It is not, however, a difficult read and can be enjoyed in a few sittings. I sat up late into the night to finish it. I couldn’t bear not to know the ending. There is plenty to keep the reader involved and the ending IS a surprise although you might guess it a few pages early, but not many, I don’t think.