The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

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“It’s only when the dream is over that you see how odd it all was, how it actually didn’t make sense at all.”

— Shari Lapena, The Couple Next Door

    The Couple Next Door is one of the most wildest story that occurs within just a couple of days. This debut thriller by Shari Lapena offers fans a captivating yet highly insane whodunit featuring a couple and their infant. On the night where both Anne and Marco go over to their neighbours for a little dinner party, the two of them decide to leave their child in its crib while bringing with them a baby monitor to keep an eye out for trouble. It’s by keeping in mind that the neighbours really wanted a baby-free night, that our married couple leave themselves open for a nice little disaster that will cunningly sneak its way into the dark and into their house. Past midnight, our highly confident couple decides to return home only to realize that their worst nightmare has come to life: their baby is gone. As this marks the end of chapter 1, The Couple Next Door will promise you with a paradise of twists and turns to satisfy the most gluttonous of thriller fans in this undeniable page-turner.

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    The writing style wasn’t the most mind-blowing aspect of this debut novel. In all honesty, it was neither bad or good. If there’s any way to describe it, I would say that it was written like a screenplay with everything told in third-person. The convenience of an omniscient godlike narrator is that the multiple point of views that are presented, all written in a simple third-person writing style, offers readers insight into what the characters are feeling and thinking. The less appealing element of it all is that Shari Lapena also spells out every possible theory and hypothesis that the reader could possibly imagine with each character always ending up sharing their thoughts on who did the kidnapping and why anyone would want to do such a thing. This is definitely unfortunate since readers are never given the freedom to really devise their own speculations or even to read between the lines. However, you’ll quickly get used to the style and find yourself captivated by this urge to find out which one of these spelled out theories will come out true by the end of the story. The Couple Next Door has definitely delivered a pretty unique narrative by remaining extremely enthralling, yet keeping everything less creative and mind-blowing for the reader. It’s definitely an odd combo, but at the end of the day, it worked.

    As you learn to adjust yourself to the writing style and find yourself immersed in the intrigue, it’s upon reaching the 50% mark that things sort of go downhill. Once you reach that point, Shari Lapena unleashes an avalanche of twists one after the other and really obliterates the level of realism to the story. In fact, that is when the story starts to unravel and all the lies, deception and manipulation games are scrutinized openly. You’ll feel like things escalated really fast when everything seemed so normal at first. Upon reaching the end and reflecting on the countless events that occurred throughout the book, you’ll realize that the odds that such a story could be remotely plausible is so slim, it’s almost impossible. However, here’s the tricky part. The Couple Next Door was just so fast-paced and insane that it ended up being addictive and quite amusing at the same time. I’d qualify this book as the fast-food of literature. You know it’s bad, but you just can’t help but enjoy it.

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    Even if the story was borderline inconceivable, the characters remained interesting and deceitful. As the hunt to find the kidnapper and to retrieve the lost baby continues, characters will slowly fall into a trap, a trap that involves paranoia, manipulation, betrayal and blame. Every character will corrupt themselves with unnecessary thoughts, reckless actions and ridiculous levels of distrust. The detective in charge of the case will also add additional pressure onto these characters and bring forth everyone’s backgrounds and the things that they’ve kept hidden from each other. One thing’s for sure. Shari Lapena does an impeccable job in bringing out the worse out of everyone in The Couple Next Door. This debut thriller is a relentless psychological thriller that will unquestionably keep you flipping through this book no matter how far-fetched it seems to get. This is one snowball that only knows one direction and won’t stop till it reaches the bottom of Mount Everest. Forget about savouring this meal, you’ll find yourself gulping The Couple Next Door in one huge bite.


THANK YOU TO PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE FOR SENDING US AN ADVANCE COPY FOR REVIEW!

Are you interested in The Couple Next Door?
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MY OVERALL RATING: ★★★☆☆/

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31 thoughts on “The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

  1. Sophie Li says:

    Great review! I like that you commented on the omnipresent narrator and how this has its pros and cons – I haven’t thought of that before.
    In your opinion is there a best way to narrate a story? (First person? Or third person while limited to one POV?)

    Cheers,
    Sophie

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Thanks Sophie! I appreciate the positive feedback. 🙂 Honestly, I don’t really have a preference and find that it’s really in the hands of the author and how they make it work. Any type of narration can actually work quite well, but it’s the style the really makes the difference. The one thing that I don’t really like seeing is books written like screenplays. It’s as if the author is asking the world to turn their book into a TV series or movie ASAP. It’s also super unappealing to read and very rarely immerses you properly into the world. There are some rare exceptions that actually make it work, and actually turned into movies/TV series as well though hahaha

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sophie Li says:

        I see! I agree that it depends on how it is written. I am used to reading third person with limited pov but I don’t mind first person. It is rare that I’ve seen a book written with an omnipresent narrator – is that what you mean by a book that is written like a screen play? In my opinion, it seems like screenplays don’t express any one person’s thoughts at all and the focus is on showing their actions

        Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Thank you so much Kim! When I finished reading this one, the whole fast food analogy really stood out. It made me realize that there are actually quite a lot of books that could fit into that category. In fact.. I think books that you call beach reads could fit these fast food books too! I wouldn’t not recommend The Couple Next Door, but I can definitely say it’s fun to read just to relax and get a change of pace from.. well.. great books. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

    Oh I had this in my B&N cart and thought I had purchased, but realized I never completed the transaction. I think I may hold off now to be honest. I am definitely intrigued, but the narration might work against me 😉 It sounds as if it doesn’t leave as much to the imagination. You certainly did an excellent job with this review! I have to agree Kim about the “I’d qualify this book as the fast food of literature!”. It makes so much sense. I will save this for a rainy day 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      In all honesty, I’d recommend not picking this up for full price and go for bargain deals/library pick-up. It really wasn’t the most mind-blowing thriller out there. I truly believe there’s better books out there to check out first (oddly enough.. I have a tough time giving thrillers 5 stars). You liked that fast food bit didn’t yeh huh? hahaha I was pretty impressed by how accurate it seemed to me too! Hope you do at least enjoy this whenever you get the chance to plunge into this thriller. 😀 Thank you so much for reading, Danielle!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. LizScanlon says:

    Brilliant review and brilliant critique! I think the fast food comparison is fantastic… mainstream and not good for you in great amounts and yet everyone still loves it. I guess it’s one of those books that one could read for pure entertainment factor and leave the common sense and credibility at the door… and sometimes these are the best kind of books but still, I appreciate your analytical approach! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Thank you so much Liz!! That is exactly what this book felt like. There so many “extremes” going on in this book, you just couldn’t help but wonder “Alright.. How much worse can it get?” I’d definitely recommend anyone to check this out if they just want a quick fix (fast-paced and captivating). It might even amaze people to the point of making them fall in love with the insanity too! 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Kawther says:

    Great review , i loved your approach ! this one seems like a fun quick book for a lazy day , i classified many books as guilty pleasure , so bad but i enjoy them

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      That’s exactly it. It’s nice to have a couple guilty pleasure books here and then throughout the year. It’s just sad when you EXPECT a lot from a book and then sadly find out that it was just.. well.. a guilty pleasure book hahah Thank you so much for reading though! I appreciate that. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Beth (Reading Every Night) says:

    Great review for this book Lashaan, it sounds like it was a little so-so for you but I guess if a book leaves you hooked enough to read until the end that something isn’t it? It’s a shame about the writing, I never thought about the cons of a third-person narrator in a story like this but when it comes to mystery’s and thrillers I like being able to draw my own conclusions about the characters rather than have them handed to me, like it sounds like it was done in this book. Still it certainly sounds like there were enough twists to keep things interesting! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Thank you so much Beth! Yep, yep. I won’t deny that it was still a fun read. I’d however never be able to say it was the best thriller out there. 😛 I do however believe that it is possible to do third-person without having everything spelled out for you whenever you’re on one POV and the author shares that character’s theories with the reader. It’s just the writing style that made the third-person + omniscent narration a bit less… open for the reader’s imagination. This was still a great fun read when someone needs something quick and fun though. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  6. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    Wow- “promise you with a paradise of twists and turns to satisfy the most gluttonous of thriller fans in this undeniable page-turner”- such a shame it couldn’t continue on that route- cos that sounded amazing. hehehe I get why that would be amusing and entertaining, even if it lost its realism. It does sound entertaining, even if it was far fetched! Awesome review!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Bahahah I had to add my own plot twist to my review too, you know? 😛 It is indeed sad that it wasn’t the ultimate thriller that I thought it might be (because of how popular it was on release). It was still a pretty fun book that is totally worth checking out when in need of something fast-pacer and that doesn’t demand much from your brain. 😛 Thank you so much for the kind words!! 😉

      Like

  7. Sophie @ Blame Chocolate says:

    Too bad about the telling rather than showing aspect… It can really destroy a great story. Good thing you were able to enjoy it, despite everything 🙂 I definitely know about fast-food literature and it ain’t easy to put down XD
    This seems like an interesting character study, above all, which is quite nice.
    Excellent review, Lashaan! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Telling rather than showing… For some reason, I couldn’t remember that while I was typing up this review, but that’s exactly what it was. I always prefer reading between the lines and having to deduce things rather than having things told to me. Then again, the author still managed to make this a pretty fun book to read, even with that style of writing. It’s not the worse thing out there, but it’s not the best thing either! Thank you so much for your kind words! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Donna | Chocolate'n'Waffles says:

    Fab review! Realism is what I look for in these books, so in a way, I’m glad I still haven’t reached this book on my TBR xD I find it a shame that all theories are mentioned so the reader is left with no choice but to follow the plot to have answers, I love it when my mind burst with scenarios and I am left on my own device to read between the lines and find hints!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Thanks Donna! Yep. Realism is so crucial to sell your story. Sometimes authors love to play around with characters who are highly unusual and a bit more rare in society (like… crazy rich people) and can easily bend realism a little since it’s already hard for most of us to relate to these characters lifestyle. It might actually be the case with this one. And, yep. The book is filled with theories thrown at your face. You’ll have to start guessing early if you want to get a little bit of “fun” throughout this story. I do hope you’ll find this fun when you get around to it. Not sure if it’ll match the quality of your Orenda books though hahahah 😀

      Like

  9. Inge | The Belgian Reviewer says:

    I had no idea there was a kidnapping in this novel. I won this one last year but then the organiser told me she wouldn’t send it internationally, even when I wanted to pay postage… still sounds good though.. so insane it becomes addictive sounds like something I would like to discover 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Ahhah, yep, it’s the premise of the story. I hope you didn’t feel like I spoiled something for you though! I usually assume anything that is said in the blurb or that I consider as a premise could be revealed without considering it as a spoiler! 😦 I think the first time I heard about this book (around release) I knew it was about a kidnapping, and only JUST got around to reading it and had completely forgotten about the blurb (it’s been like a year since release now I think).

      Really stinks about the whole international shipping issue. I sort of know what you feel about that as.. Quebec is almost ALWAYS excluded from giveaways hosten for Canadian residents and that REALLY annoys me (something about conflicting laws we have).

      I do hope you get the opportunity to read this when you’re craving for something fast-paced and fun. It’s an easy read filled with a lot of twists! 😀 Thanks for reading, Inge. I appreciate it!!

      Liked by 1 person

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