2019 Reading List: The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

What would you do if your baby was kidnapped while you were at a party next door? How would you react? In The Couple Next Door, by Shari Lapena, Anne and Marco’s babysitter cancels last minute, so they decide to leave the baby at home while they go to a party, promising to check on her every half hour. They have a monitor with them and every time they check, the baby is fine. And yet. They get home after the party and the baby is missing.

This suspenseful mystery novel tells the story of how the Conti’s try desperately to get their baby back. But maybe everything isn’t as clear as it first seems.

Police look into the parents’ reactions, they question their neighbors, they look into their business files. There’s family drama – Anne’s parents don’t like Marco and never have. Anne has postpartum depression and is on medication, which somehow, ridiculously makes her a suspect. Apparently being on medication for depression makes you suspect #1 in a kidnapping and potential murder of a baby. New moms, beware.

At one point, the couple gets a clue to the whereabouts of their baby. They get a note from the kidnapper telling them to meet them at a certain location, where they will swap several million dollars for the return of their child. Since Anne’s parents are millionaires, it’s no problem. However, the swap goes awry. No baby and the kidnappers take off with the money.

At that point in the story, Marco is freaking out and we know that he has something to do with the crime.

It’s pretty easy to guess that Marco staged his own daughter’s kidnapping. No crazy spoiler there. His business was underwater and he needed money. He met a guy who said he could arrange the whole scam and it would be easy. Get the baby out of the house, he’d take her somewhere safe, they’d exchange money, and he’d get a cut once the whole deal was over.

The problem is, Marco was supposed to get the baby back at that exchange. Now he has no idea what’s happening and the situation is completely out of his control. And now there’s a real kidnapper, because his “guy” turns up dead. He has no idea where his daughter is.

I’ll leave you hanging on that and let you read the end for yourself.

This was a fun read, but had some common stereotypes that you might expect in a mystery about a kidnapping. Anne didn’t seem upset enough, Marco is an immediate suspect, the in-laws think their daughter is too good for the man she married because they come from money and he comes from hard work.

I also never understood why the neighbors, i.e. the couple next door, aren’t considered suspects at all. They gloss over their role in the night, the fact that it was their house that Anne and Marco were at. The author also throws in a weird fetish that the neighbors have, which didn’t seem necessary to the story. I’m not sure where “The Couple Next Door” title really comes from, since after the party, the next door neighbors aren’t hugely involved with the story, other than the fact that they have a secret video recording of Marco taking his baby out of the house at “the time of the kidnapping.” I’m not sure if the Couple Next Door refers to the neighbors or to the Conti’s themselves.

It was a good book, but don’t read too much into the crime investigation details.

 

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