I was quite surprised to see that Shari Lapena worked as a lawyer and an English teacher and wrote two award-winning literary novels.
‘The Couple Next Door’ her suspense debut is written in a strange childlike voice. I got the feeling that the story was written by a 16-year-old.
The characters aren’t very sympathetic. Anne was once a beautiful, smart woman who used to work in an art gallery but who let her figure and her career go down the drain after she had a baby.
In a time when women juggle a successful career and motherhood, this is not exactly a woman role model. Does Lapena send the subtle message that a woman’s place is in the home, taking care of her child? Is she pointing an accusing finger at women who keep their identity? Has she never heard of a gym and home exercises?
Not only that, Anne suffers from postpartum depression and has a history of violence. Patches in time she later on has no recollection of.
Her husband Marco is equally unsympathetic. When Anne met Marco she was a society girl and he was a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Marrying into money opened doors and possibilities for him, but he’s basically a loser who doesn’t have a head for business. All he has going for him are his looks and his in-laws money. Is it any wonder that Anne’s parents dislike him?
When the couple leaves their three-month-old baby at home while they attend a dinner party next door, more than one woman will cringe at the irresponsibility of it. What parents in their right mind leave a baby alone at home? When the baby is kidnapped parents the world over might think … serves them right.
Of course, if the baby hadn’t been left alone, there wouldn’t be a story. The couple would come home after the dinner party, find the baby sleeping in her cot, and all would be well. As it is, the baby is gone, the parents are frantic and the police gets involved.
Anyone with half a brain has this story almost immediately figured out. The reader might not know the details but knows who the kidnapper is and why.
All in all, as with so many books that were introduced with a great hype, I found the story disappointing.
I gave the book a three-star rating because I didn’t exactly hate it, but I didn’t love it either. It was all a bit too simple and childlike written.