The Couple Next Door
Author: Shari Lapena
Length: 8.5 hours
Narrator: Kirsten Potter
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Original Publication Date: 2016
Genre(s): Mystery, Adult fiction, Contemporary
Anne and Marco Conti’s life looks shiny from the outside—nice house, new baby, happy marriage. One night, Anne and Marco are invited next door for dinner, and when the babysitter cancels, Marco convinces Anne to leave baby Cora at home anyway. It’s no big deal—the Contis’ home share a wall with their neighbor’s home, and they agree to take turns checking on the baby every 30 minutes. What could go wrong? But then everything goes wrong, and the Contis’ life falls apart. One decision changes their lives forever. And what happens when Anne and Marco start to unravel the secrets they have been keeping from one another?
I think this book was incorrectly advertised. It’s marketed as a chilling, suspenseful thriller, perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins and such. It’s not. At least, I didn’t think so. There was an element of suspense, but I would not label it as a suspense novel, and certainly not a thriller. The novel felt more like a crime novel than anything else, so maybe we should just call it a mystery novel. False advertising leads to misled expectations.
The novel is told in third-person omniscient and follows multiple characters in the story, most often alternating between Anne, Marco, and Detective Rasbach. I found Anne the most annoying, Marco frustrating, and Rasbach interesting. I can’t say much else about the characters without giving away the story, but the best part about them all is that they’re unreliable. Third-person POV helps keep the mystery alive. Sure, you know some of what they’re thinking, but that’s the beauty of third-person: you don’t know everything.
There are plenty of twists and turns to keep the story alive and going. After the second twist, I was a little disappointed it was so easy, but of course it wasn’t that easy as another twist changed it all. The book is just twist after twist! Some say the plot gets a little too convoluted, but I thought it was fine. It made sense. Not everything is black and white. Not everything has a simple solution. I liked that there were so many elements to the mystery, and that I couldn’t completely solve it. I guessed some of it pretty well, actually, which is not normal—I’m usually terrible at solving the mystery. I like being bad at it, though. It keeps the mystery exciting!
Though this wasn’t my favorite mystery novel, it wasn’t as bad as the reviews on Goodreads made it out to be. I actually quite enjoyed the story and really got caught up in the mystery. The writing was alright, the characters could have used just a liiiiiittle more development, but as far as mysteries goes, it was an entertaining one that I recommend. (Though the ending was kind of unrealistic and hard to believe… Wasn’t how I wanted it to end, not gonna lie.)