The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena is a suspenseful thriller about a nightmare of every parent, a child goes missing. We are familiar with the disappearance of children from Malls while shopping with parents. Warned by example, we take precautions. But how much more careful could Anne and Marco be? They wanted to go to a party that was located next door. The houses were not even detached, they shared a wall and were furnished so that they were mirror images of each other. The shared wall wasn’t even that thick. Anne and Marco nevertheless hired a babysitter to go next door to the party. Baby Cora was prone to crying and was pointedly not invited by Cynthia, the wife of Graham, the sometimes too friendly neighbor’s next door. Cynthia was very friendly with Marco, didn’t like children and was tolerant, but dismissive of Anne.
The babysitter canceled at the last minute but Plan B was available. There was a baby monitor that could be checked from Cynthia and Graham’s house. Anne and Marco agreed that they would switch off, each checking on Cora every thirty minutes. That plan worked out up until the time for last call and time to go home. One of the thirty-minute checks did not happen. Anne and Marco went home to find an open door and a missing baby, Cora.
The police are called and the reader is introduced to Detective Rasbach who does the right police thing. He suspects everybody except for the baby. Before too many pages are turned, the reader will emulate Detective Rasbach. A car was seen exiting a lane running behind the homes that accessed resident garages. There will be a ransom demand which the police would never agree to pay. Marco thinks he can handle the ransom exchange without police involvement. He and Anne don’t have the funds, but Anne’s parents do. Marco is sure they will come through. Five million is nothing for them.
We are halfway through the novel and we find out that Marco has had money problems with his business. We are not totally surprised that one of the parents, in this case, Marco, is involved. Detective Rasbach would say “I told you so.” But Anne has also had psychological problems when she was young that required therapy. She has problems now with postpartum depression. It may seem to the reader that Anne is trying to talk her way into accepting responsibility for Cora’s disappearance. Rasbach takes another look at both parents.
We find out that there was a kidnapping. The act was not done by Anne or Marco. The man who kidnapped Cora is found murdered. Cora continues to be missing. There are no more suspects to be added to the investigation. Anne, Marco, Cynthia, Graham and Anne’s parents are investigated again. More of their faults and frailties are exposed as the novel moves to a surprising ending. It is not that the reader can’t guess who the ultimate culprit is, the question is the motive for the kidnapping.
But in the end, it is not about the kidnapping.
If the writer continues to write with this quality of storytelling, I will continue to buy her novels.