THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR. (2016) WRITTEN BY SHARI LAPENA. PUBLISHED BY TRANSWORLD.
BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This is a pretty damn good effort for a debut thriller, lol. Mind you, the lady was a lawyer and an English teacher before she started writing fiction, so she probably had a good hefty head start on most writers.
This is the story of an American marriage that was possibly shaky to begin with, but on the night that the story kicks off, something happens that puts the marriage under more strain than it was ever intended to withstand.
Marco Conti and his wife Anne’s baby daughter Cora is kidnapped on a night when, to their eternal shame, they’ve left her alone to attend a dinner party with the couple next door.
True, they’ve brought the baby monitor with them (audio only, no visuals; someone clearly screwed up there) and they’re taking it in turns to pop back and forth to the house to check on her every half hour, but still, what kind of parent does that…?
The awful thing (well, next to Cora’s being kidnapped, of course!) is that Anne doesn’t even want to be at the neighbours’ cruddy dinner party in the first place. The husband, Graham, is a nonentity who doesn’t utter a syllable throughout the book, and the wife, horny sexpot Cynthia Stillwell, spends the whole evening flirting her ass off with Marco who, somewhat understandably, is flattered and responds in kind to her attentions.
After all, Anne is taking antidepressants for her post-natal depression, she’s down in the dumps all the time, she feels ‘fat and unattractive’ compared to the trashy Cynthia and she’s probably experienced an almost total loss of libido after the birth of her baby as well.
Who could blame Marco for responding to Sexy Cynthia’s brazen advances, her blatant invitation to kiss and have a bit of an old grope and a feel out on the back patio while Anne is at home giving Cora her last breast-feed of the night? He probably hasn’t had sex in months, the poor love. Yes, I’m being sarcastic, lol. The prick.
Anyway, when the couple eventually arrive home from the horrible dinner party, both tipsy and frustrated, albeit in different ways, their baby girl Cora is gone from her cot. Anne immediately begins to blame Marco, as he was the one who persuaded her that Cora would be just fine without a babysitter just this once. Oh, he was, was he…? Marco’s looking better and better as a husband by the minute, isn’t he?
Enter the taciturn Detective Rasbach, so taciturn, in fact, that we never find out anything at all about his personal life, like whether his wife divorced him because he was never at home and was married to the job, or if he’s a weekend dad and his kids are all screwed up because their dad always put his work before his family, stuff like that.
In any case, it’s this Detective Rasbach’s job to unravel this complicated case and try to find out what’s happened to poor little Cora Conti. Was she taken by an opportunist, who just happened to be passing by on the one night that Cora was home alone? Unlikely, but not impossible.
Was it a kidnapping for ransom, as Anne’s parents Alice and Richard are filthy, and I do mean filthy, rich? Or, more likely in Rasbach’s hard-bitten detective’s mind, have either of her parents done away with Baby Cora for some reason and staged a phoney kidnapping to cover up their nefarious actions?
It’s often the parents in cases like this, just as, when a woman goes missing or is murdered, the first port of call for the police is usually the husband or boyfriend. It’s nothing to do with police discrimination; it’s simply that the solution to cases like this is frequently found close to home.
After all, Anne has post-natal depression and a strange history of violent actions dating back to her school days, and Marco’s software business is in terrible financial trouble. Their marriage seems like it was rocky even before the taking of Baby Cora, and relations between them since the kidnapping have reached rock-bottom.
I’m getting back into reading psychological thrillers like this one (they call them, I believe, domestic noir), provided that they’re written by women and contain only the minimum of police intrusion and guns, etc.
I like good, tightly-written domestic plots like this one, about bad marriages, unfaithful husbands (or wives) with seedy, sleazy sexual perversions and women struggling to balance motherhood with marriage and with work outside the home, a difficult (t)ask even in so-called ‘ideal’ circumstances.
I’m very much looking forward to reading whatever Shari Lapena does next. THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR is right up my street, but I’m kind of glad the Contis and the Stillwells don’t inhabit my street too. They wouldn’t make for very good neighbours, and I certainly wouldn’t ask them to babysit my young ‘uns…
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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