The Couple Next Door - Shari Lapena

The chief job of a psychological thriller author is to keep his or her reader invested to the end of the tale. Mysteries don’t require exquisite character work. They don’t have to be challenging. But books like The Couple Next Door — short books obviously meant for beach and airport reading — should engage. On that level, this book fails. At least in its final forty perfect.


This is the story of a kidnapping. While gone to a dinner party, a young couple’s baby girl is kidnapped from their home. The search and investigation is immediately on. One of the few things this book does have going for it is its pace: it is hard to put this one down once begun, despite its putrid latter half.


I was invested for a while. I didn’t like any of the characters (a failure on the author’s part, as it is obvious these people are supposed to be sympathetic) but I did want to find out what happened to baby Cora. And . . . the reader is told some hundred pages before the ending. Yet the story carries on as if this information hasn’t been given, and I was forced to trudge through leads I knew were a dead end. This book clocks in at only 308 pages, but man, it dragged after a point. A few minor twists are revealed after the fact, but they are rather inconsequential and silly. The ending made me roll my eyes and curse my impulses, for I bought this MF’er new at Barnes and Noble.


This tries to be a psychological thriller, and for a while it almost works . . . until it doesn’t. The mystery at the center of this story is compelling — what happened to the baby? — but the characters are borderline unbearable, the resolution is flimsy, and numerous foundational issues are present. Beware.