What seems to be Anne and Marco Conti’s first night out together since the birth of their six month old daughter, Cora, soon becomes the worst night of their life. Having organised to join their neighbours for dinner their babysitter cancels. After much debate they decide to put Cora to bed, take the monitor next door with them and check on their daughter, who is after all just next door, every half hour. However between their last check at 12.30 and their return home just after 1am, their daughter has vanished.
We are then drawn into the utter terror that must be a nightmare and fear for all parents. The initial question is who on earth would steal their child, the second question is why? Lapena draws us straight into the viewpoints of Anne and Marco, and the doubts and questions they both have with their spouse – after all, how do we ever really know what is going on in someone else’s head, even those closest to us? Then we start to learn of the secrets they may have been keeping.
Lapena sends the story off in a host of directions and viewpoints. Initially we are introduced to Detective Rasbach, the leading Detective on their case, giving the reader a really interesting insight into how a case is treated and how judgements are made. We then get even more insight into Anne and Marco, as they become suspects, as Lapena brings in their neighbours and then Anne’s parents as narrators even if just for a chapter or two. This could be really confusing – however, Lapena gives everyone their own strong voice and fully formed narrative. It also becomes all the more tantalising when we begin to see glimmers that many of these narrators have things to hide – who on earth is telling the truth?
It is this device that is one of the greatest strengths of the novel for me because it is where all the twists, turns and a few red herrings that Dame Agatha would be proud of get thrown in. Lapena excels in plotting and weaves one of the most intricate and gripping spider webs of lies and deceit I have had the joy – and torture guessing-wise – of reading in some time. Admittedly the prose is sometimes a little wobbly, but frankly I read a book like this for the roller-coaster of a plot. This does make a book like The Couple Next Door a nightmare to review though because, bar the initial jumping off point, I don’t want to talk about the plot and spoil a single page for you. Yes, sometimes your opinion will shift several times in a page or even a paragraph. More than one revelation had my jaw dropping.
If you are looking for a book to get completely lost in – either on that last bit of sunlight on a lounger, or curled up on the sofa as the dark nights set in – then this is without a doubt the thriller for you. Cancel all other plans, you won’t want to put it down for anyone or anything.
Have you read The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!