Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Couple Next Door - Shari Lapena

The Couple Next DoorAh, the "trouble woman thriller."  This seems to be a bigger genre than ever these days, and I totally blame Gone Girl.  And yes, I liked Gone Girl.  But much as Twilight (which I did not like) seemed to spawn a mess of vampire-teen-romances, so had Gone Girl spawned so many others that dream of following in its footsteps.  The Couple Next Door doesn't follow Gone Girl's plot, but it does aim for its feel and twists and such, but it doesn't really succeed.

The main characters here, Marco and Anne, leave their infant daughter alone in her crib while they attend a dinner party next door, taking their baby monitor with them and checking on the infant every half hour.  But when they return home, the baby is gone.  What follows is an investigation into the kidnapping in which suspicion immediately falls on the parents, for various reasons, and the couple's secrets start to come out a little bit at a time.

While the central story here is fine, I guess, I found the writing flat and a few characterizations that really, really bothered me.  First, those characterizations.  Within the first few pages, Anne is casting dispersions upon her neighbors, particularly the wife, because "they are childless by choice."  Clearly, this means they must be terrible, right?  Yes, the couple next door are up to some shady stuff and they're not great people...but Lapena sets all of this up by implying that not having or not wanting children somehow makes you a bad person.  What?  Since when is that true?  And then, of course, another female character has to be mentally unstable, because women who are mentally stable don't have problems, right?  Obviously.  So frustrating.  Meanwhile, the detective investigating the case is almost entirely useless, even though he is a man, because why would you ever feature a competent law officer in a book where he isn't the main character?  Sigh.

This one of the extra books I picked up from Book of the Month a while ago, in addition to my normal monthly selection, and I didn't get to it until now.  Now I see why.  Overall?  Very disappointing.

2 stars out of 5.

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