A thriller you’ve been waiting for

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House of Canada in exchange for an honest review.

You all know that I am always up for crime fiction or thrillers. As the genre becomes more and more dominant, it can sometimes feel like you’re reading the same story over and over.


When I first started reading The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena, I admit to feeling that way. Anne and Marco Conti are having dinner with their neighbours, Cynthia and Graham Stilwell. Anne’s been struggling with post-partum depression in the 6 months since their daughter, Cora, was born. Tonight, Cynthia, someone she used to be close friends with, is flirting shamelessly with Marco and Anne is having a hard time with it. Because their babysitter cancelled last minute, the Contis are taking turns checking on sleeping Cora every 30 minutes.

The evening ends with the discovery of a crime. This throws everyone, the Contis, Stilwells and the reader, on a thrill ride of discovery that has some pretty wicked twists and turns.

Lapena is masterful at keeping the reader guessing. There are a lot of elements to this book and there were moments reading this where I wondered how it was all going to work out. How could all these different things, these random facts actually have anything to do with what happened? Was it just littered with red herrings?

No. Lapena is just that good.

And lest you think that it’s only about plot, rest assured – it’s not. The cast of characters is so well-formed, so flawed, all of them caught up in a web of secrets that’s now threatening to ensnare them. Anne hasn’t been totally honest with Marco about things that happened in her past; Marco’s been keeping some pretty big things to himself as well. The Couple Next Door is just as much a portrait of marriage as it is a mystery.

And the ending?! I have not been so DELIGHTED with an ending in a good long while. It was exquisite.

I devoured this book. Know that if you start reading this, you’re not going to want to be torn away from it.

This is Lapena’s debut novel and if this is what she’s bringing to the table the first time out, I cannot wait to read what else she might have for us. And while I dislike the practice of comparing books to others (you know the books I’m talking about), know that this book more than holds it’s own among them.

The Couple Next Door is what you’ve been waiting for. If you like thrillers, if you enjoy a well-paced mystery that leaves you just one step behind the whole time, read this.

12 thoughts on “A thriller you’ve been waiting for

  1. I am really looking forward to reading this one: it sounds terrific. And I love the sense of a truly satisfying ending awaiting!

    It’s interesting that it appears to be her first novel from the jacket of this one, because she’s actually published two books previously, with smaller independent presses. I’ve heard they are both very good, but I’ve only read the more recent one, Happiness Economics, which is about as un-thrilling as a story gets, but very astute and quite hilarious at times!

  2. I really liked this, too, but because I don’t read a lot of thrillers I was unsure of myself. For all I knew it was just like all the rest of them. So, I’m glad to hear you liked it, too. 🙂
    I did think she did a good job with all the grief and nerves. There was so much of it that it could have been too much, but I found it very believable. I have to admit, though, that when I first read what the crime was I wondered if I would be able to keep reading. I got over that, though.

    • The book was wound very tightly, don’t you think? And the whole time I was expecting more about the Graeme and Cynthia because of the title. Very clever. When I first read what the crime was, I thought “ugh, here we go again.” But it was really well handled.

      • Yes! I was expecting more to do with the neighbours, too. Because Graeme was so quiet and missing in action most of the time, I suspected he was up to no good, even though I couldn’t think what that might have been.

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