The Couple Next Door by Sheri Lapena -The Review

You’re dangerous [name redacted], with your plans and your schemes

Regarding the above quote from Sheri Lapena’s The Couple Next Door:

I get it. Dialogue is a tricky business. If writers mimicked verbatim the way people actually speak, we’d get something like Ulysses but written by a Valley Girl who never finishes her sentences.

But seriously?

The bittersweet aspect of audiobooks is that sometimes a line that reads fine on the page sounds like a basement bargain James Bond villain when read aloud.

If that was my only quibble with The Couple Next Door, I could live with that, if the story and characters had been compelling. But unfortunately the only thing that kept me hanging on was my biological inability to bail on a mystery.

I just gotta know.

[spoilers abound in leaps and bounds!]

The books opens on a dinner party where nobody is having any fun. Or are they?

Ann sure isn’t. She is battling post-partum depression and is anxious about leaving their baby alone next door while she parties with the couple sharing their duplex, even though the baby monitor is by her side and she’s taken turns with her husband checking on the baby every half hour.

Even though these two couples are ostensibly friends, they clearly find no pleasure in each other’s company. The other woman, Cynthia, is of course gorgeous and blatantly flirting with Ann’s husband, Marco.

The character of Cynthia remains a caricature of a salacious jezebel throughout the book. She doesn’t like babies. She’s an exhibitionist. She’s manipulative and cruel. She has no desire to be a mother, the biggest sin a woman can commit (according to the book). Next to, of course, leaving your baby alone in what is technically the same house (multiple times the paper thin walls are mentioned).

When Ann and Marco finally depart this miserable party, they return home only to find the baby is missing. Cue plot convolutions, cardboard characters, transparent red herrings, and a superfluous case of dissociative identity disorder.

There’s so much about this book that doesn’t make sense, beginning with the cover:

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Why is it called The Couple Next Door when the cover is of one person with bizarrely backlit hair? (source)

The title doesn’t make any sense, because ultimately, what couple is it referring to, and from whose perspective? The abrupt POV shifts in the book are messy, and one entire storyline, seemingly extraneous once the kidnapper is revealed, turns out to be a catalyst for the supremely idiotic ending. It almost felt added as an afterthought, as though a reader would get to the penultimate page and think: “I would really like this book if it added one more nonsensical shock to the batter.”

Minus the final scene, the tidiness of the ending where everything turns out just right reminds me of a Scooby Doo episode. “Jinkies! It was [name redacted] all along!”

I nearly expected the criminal to shake their fist and shout “And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for that meddling author!”

The one character to even give half a care about is the baby, because she’s innocent, and even if she ends back up with her parents, she’s stuck with a couple of moronic losers for the rest of her life.

*eavesdropping

  • In order to demonstrate that a character is a sociopath, the author repeatedly stressed that he is a “businessman” because apparently all businessmen are Patrick Bates.

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