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  • Barbara Copperthwaite

Review: THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR, Shari Lapena

The Couple Next Door, by Shari Lapena. Review by Barbara Copperthwaite

“This is a book that you must clear your diary for, because once you start it, you won’t be able to stop”


You never know what's happening on the other side of the wall.

Your neighbour told you that she didn't want your six-month-old daughter at the dinner party. Nothing personal, she just couldn't stand her crying.

Your husband said it would be fine. After all, you only live next door. You'll have the baby monitor and you'll take it in turns to go back every half hour.

Your daughter was sleeping when you checked on her last. But now, as you race up the stairs in your deathly quiet house, your worst fears are realized. She's gone.

You've never had to call the police before. But now they're in your home, and who knows what they'll find there.

What would you be capable of, when pushed past your limit?


Oh, what a tangled web they weave! When a baby is abducted from her home in the dead of night, while her parents are next door enjoying a dinner party, the spotlight soon falls on those parents. But why would they hurt their child? And can they survive the strain of losing their daughter?

This is very much a “parents’ worst nightmare” book, though I’m certain many mothers and father reading this will have little sympathy and a lot of frustration at the start of this novel.

The subject matter is hard. At first, I felt particularly uncomfortable, inevitably worried that this was some kind of fictionalized version of the Madelaine McCann case. Thank goodness, it wasn’t – instead it is a brilliantly creative story straight from the imagination of author Shari Lapena.

The writing style is very precise and considered, which feels very different. Over the last few years this type of book has always been written in first person, which gives it immediacy and personality. At first, the third person (along with its general air) feels a little cold and removed. But once I’d got used to it I actually liked it; it felt slightly old-fashioned, in a good way, a way that reminded me of Patricia Highsmith and the like.

The author creates unease all the way through the book. She brilliantly pulls the readers’ strings, first creating tension with one character, then easing off only to create tension with another character instead. The end builds to a fabulous, nail-biting crescendo.

This is a book that you must clear your diary for, because once you start it, you won’t be able to stop. I literally couldn’t put it down, abandoning my own writing so that I could instead lose myself in it.

Be warned, though, this writing style isn’t for everyone, and if you dislike it then you may well end up hating the book as a result (judging from some early reviews I’ve seen, The Couple Next Door seems to be a Marmite experience).

Me? I loved it. If this is Shari Lapena’s debut crime novel then I cannot wait to see what she has in store for us in the future. Bring it on!

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