Book Review – A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena

Tom and Karen Krupp are the perfect happy couple. She waits for him to come home from his accounting job everyday with a nice home-cooked meal in tow. They are even planning to start a family soon. However, one evening, Karen disappears, leaving her cell phone in the house, doors unlocked, pasta water boiling. She subsequently gets into a car accident and suffers from amnesia, forgetting what happens that night. Tom gets home, couldn’t find her, calls her friends and then the police. A dead man gets found a few days later. As she gets investigated due to the murder (it took place near the place of her accident), she slowly regains her memory, recalling the frightening events that took place that fateful night.

As I was reading this book, I couldn’t help but find similarities to Lapena’s first novel I read “The Couple Next Door“. The narration is mostly third-person and thus makes for easy reading. Some people however, would find it boring and yearn for the messiness of flashbacks, different perspectives, etc. The pleasant thing I found about Lapena’s writing is that she doesn’t wait TOO long to show you her secret. For example, something might happen, and makes you eager to find out why. Most of the time, the ‘why’ is answered in the next chapter (or next few).

As usual, this book has not disappointed the love-for-domestic-thrillers in me. in the spirit of her previous book, everyone has secrets to hide. Well, almost everyone. Even her neighbors are involved. (Hint, hint). Plot is fast paced and uncovering of secrets quite nicely paced out. i thought I would be left unfulfilled at the ending but turns out the last two pages did justice to that. Several parts left me reeling, plus the characters are really believable too.

Rating: 4.75/5 (Good pace of plot twists, easy reading. Doesn’t leave you on a cliffhanger for long – some might like it, some might not, to each his own. Great ending but a little abrupt, could have been more work done there leading up to the conclusion)

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Book Review – The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

This book possesses all the right qualities that I look for in a good psychological thriller. It was humorous at all the right moments, contained sufficient twists, new strategically-placed developments to keep me turning the page and had sublime subplots very well interwoven into the main storyline. The characters were well established and a good glimpse into their minds were given.

A crime investigation paving the way into a domestic psychological story, we learn of how the couple Anne and Marco lost their their six-year old Cora one night during a dinner party at their neighbor’s. (No spoilers ahead, I promise) The whole story revolves around where the baby is, what happened to her. We learn secret activities of their neighbors Cynthia and Graham, we learn secrets of Anne’s psychological state, as well as secrets Marco is keeping, and between these characters. Have I made it sound exciting already?

The writing here is linear, which I like. There is also a clear definition between narration of each character so I didn’t have to flip back to figure out who is speaking. Perhaps I live for such domestic settings, just seems more relatable somewhat – compared to a far-fetched fantasy world of castles and magicians. However, that being said – enough unexpected excitable surprises await you to make this a worthwhile read for fans of this genre.

Some part of the story is told through the lens of the detective assigned to investigate the case of the missing child, which I found to be quite refreshing. The way we are privy to how his thought processes work and his piecing of things together is quite refreshing after being bombarded by the lies told by some of the characters. It’s kinda like, ahhh.. finally someone has figured it out besides me.

Oh, and some people might not enjoy the nicely tied together ending, but I did.

 

Rating: 4.75/5

(linear writing, clear definition of characters, contains all the good elements of a good psychological thriller in a domestic setting, lots of unexpected surprises, nice ending. My only gripe is that the mystery of the missing baby Cora was dragged out a little long in my opinion – typically, the author would feed you a little clue at a time, but don’t expect too much of that)