Pub. Date: August 25, 2016
Source: e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, Pamela Dorman Books!)
Summary: Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all—a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately focuses on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story.
Inside the curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something. Both Anne and Marco soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they’ve kept for years.
Genre: Contemporary, Thriller, Mystery, Suspense
A six-month-old baby vanishes from her crib while her parents are at a party next door. Sounds intriguing right? Who took the baby? What possessed the parents to leave their daughter to go drinking next door? Why was Cora taken and will her parents ever get her back? These were the questions that immediately came to mind the moment I heard about The Couple Next Door and I knew this was a book I wanted to read. It seemed like the good folks at Viking/Pamela Dorman are mindreaders because I received an e-mail asking if I’d be interested in reviewing this book and I immediately sat down to read.
Anne and Marco have a beautiful house (gifted to them as a wedding present by Anne’s parents) and a brand-new baby, Cora. Marco runs his own software company and Anne worked in a very successful art gallery before leaving to raise their daughter. From the outside the Contis seem like a picture-perfect family. Behind closed doors, however, is a much different image: Marco’s business is doing worse than Anne thinks. Anne’s postpartum depression is causing a rift in their marriage and it’s obvious their flawless goddess of a neighbor has been flirting with her husband.
When the babysitter cancels last minute, Anne and Marco argue about whether or not to cancel their plans as well – there’s a birthday party next-door they were invited to with a strict no children rule. In the end they decide to leave Cora behind while checking on her every half hour. The party is somewhat of a bust: Cynthia flirts with Marco the entire night while Anne mopes inside and tries to make small talk with Cynthia’s husband. When Anne finally convinces her husband to leave, they arrive home and walk straight into their worst nightmare: Cora is gone.
Almost instantly their story makes the papers and reporters are stationed outside their door. Just who are these parents who would leave their baby alone in the house and, more importantly, where is baby Cora? As the detectives comb through what little evidence they can find (some tire marks, an unscrewed light bulb in the motion detector) fingers begin pointing and long-kept secrets are revealed.
I’m disappointed to say I didn’t love The Couple Next Door as much as I had hoped. I went in expected a very intriguing and suspenseful novel about a kidnapping and was horribly letdown. Instead, this book focuses on Anne and Marco’s marriage and Marco’s tense relationship with his wealthy in-laws rather than tracking down the person responsible for this terrible crime. Anne’s parents always thought their daughter was simply too good for a man like Marco. Theirs was a total good girl falls for a boy from the wrong side of the tracks kind of love and normally I’m all about that trope. Here, however, I just didn’t care about Marco’s resentment toward his in-laws. They provided him with the money for his business and now that he’s failing, they’ve cut off any further loans. That said, they’re determined to do whatever it takes to see their granddaughter is returned safely – no matter how much the ransom is.
Initially I was completely on board with this book…until the first double-cross. Then it became a triple-cross, ultimately turning into a quadruple-cross. Seriously. Lapena pulled all the stops with the drama and, unfortunately, The Couple Next Door suffered for it. With no likable characters I had a hard time finding someone to root for and discovered I was more interested in reaching the end of the book than I was in actually having the case resolved and getting Cora back home.
It’s all too easy to tell The Couple Next Door is a debut. While the story idea is there and sounds great, Lapena’s execution just isn’t strong enough and she falls victim to the number one rule of writing: show don’t tell. Simple sentences with every little detail spelled out to the point where any attempt at a mystery is fruitless. Characters who are caricatures. Such a huge – and unnecessary – amount of drama where anything that could happen does. I was really looking forward to this one, but I’m sad to say it just didn’t thrill me.