Book Review: The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
One-sentence summary of The Couple Next Door:
This noir-ish book follows Anne and Marco, a young, wealthy couple, as they search for their kidnapped baby.
More whodunnit than heart-wrenching, donâ€™t come here for a realistic look at child abduction. Come instead for the twists and turns.
Anne and Marco go next door for a dinner party. The babysitter cancels at the last minute, but the baby is already asleep and theyâ€™re only going next door. No big deal, right? (famous last words)
They lock the door tight, bring the baby monitor, and check on the baby every thirty minutes. When they return home the final time, the baby is missing.
At this point, Anne, who is already suffering from postpartum depression and has always been a limp noodle of a person, goes into a weepy breakdown and pretty much stays there for the remainder of the book.
The rest of the players represent noir at its best.
- Marco is the dashing hero of a husband whose money woes may have guided him to nefarious deeds.
- Cynthia is the femme fatale, sex-starved neighbor who seems to have no conscience.
- The cynical, world-weary detective lives for nothing but this case.
- Anneâ€™s parents are rich, judgmental, and have plenty of secrets of their own.
- The partner in crime turns out to be a double-crossing patsy.
- And of course, we think we know whodunnit, then find that the trail of filth doesnâ€™t end where we initially think it does. Thereâ€™s filth all around, I tells ya, and everyoneâ€™s hands are potentially dirty.
Noir isnâ€™t quite a dying genre, but we do see less of it than we once did. Perhaps weâ€™ve been desensitized to scandal. Perhaps the characters play more like caricatures.
Either way, the genre is good fun. This infographic gives three solid recommendations for those new to noir. To sweeten the pot, the book and movie options are both excellent for each of these titles:
A mother, son, and girlfriend run cons big and small. No one is exempt from being double-crossed; not even each other. Heartbreaking, gritty, and taboo. The Oedipal overtones make this story richer than the average offering.
The ultimate femme fatale talks her gentleman friend into participating in a murder plot. Surprisingly, things go awry. Call this a morality tale, or a Garden of Eden gone wrong. Walter eats the forbidden fruit and his life goes to hell.
The ultimate potboiler of domestic life disrupted and destroyed by oneâ€™s own child. Mildred, a strong woman, builds a restaurant empire after divorce. But she has a weakness for shifty men and her horrible daughter. That weakness could topple her empire.
And now The Couple Next Door swigs from the noir brandy snifter, throws the glass into the roaring fireplace, and shouts, â€œYouâ€™ll never get me!â€