The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
It’s Anne and Marco’s first night out together since having their baby daughter, Cora, six months earlier. It’s only intimate birthday drinks with the couple next door and the babysitter is booked and they can still pop back whenever they want.
Things start to get more complicated when the babysitter cancels last minute. With no time to find a replacement, the neighbours having made it very clear Cora wasn’t invited and under pressure from Marco, Anne gives in to still going out for dinner but taking the baby monitor and insisting that one of them pop back every half an hour to check on their baby. After all, Anne’s been suffering from postnatal depression and it would be good for both of them to get out.
When they return home at 1am, the front door is open and baby Cora is gone.
The police are called and Detective Rasbach takes control of the situation and leads up the investigation. Cadaver dogs are brought in and thankfully they don’t respond to the scent of death anywhere in the house. Anne’s parents arrive to support their daughter and Rasbach watches as the tension of the family unfurls.
But who would want to steal baby Cora and who would know that she would be on her own?
The first half of The Couple Next Door is a master-class in tension. Anne’s response to finding the house empty is especially heart-wrenching as she lashes out, completely unable to cope with the fear and confusion. From then she is portrayed as the unreliable female lead (as made so popular recently by Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train) as she suffers from a memory-related illness and post-natal depression. Although it is made clear that post-natal depression and post-natal psychosis (where mothers have been known to harm or even kill their children) are miles apart, the insinuation of an unstable mind is still there.
Everyone has a secret in this story and no one’s lives are as simple as they appear. The tension does dissipate as the culprit is revealed (but don’t expect this to be as simple as it sounds!) and I did manage to predict a couple of the twists but there were still a few that genuinely surprised me. The plot races along to keep you thoroughly engrossed and it’s a fun novel to try and predict along the way.
Crime and family secrets collide in this really enjoyable domestic thriller. If you’re looking for a summer read to devour on the beach or by the pool then The Couple Next Door is definitely worth investing in.