The Couple Next Door
by Shari Lapena
Is it true that you never quite know what’s going on behind closed doors?
For Anne and Marco Conti, the fact that they do their best to put their best foot forward is not as obvious as one would think. They’ve always appeared so perfect to outsiders : a seemingly flawless couple; beautiful and wealthy, successful in business and in family. No one would ever suspect the trouble that lay behind the doors of their expensive brownstone. On the inside of the Conti home, a different story is playing out altogether. There are cracks in the porcelain; there are irreparable runs in the fabric that has been meticulously woven together to complete the Conti household.
Since giving birth to their baby girl, Anne has struggled with her identity. She’s struggled with postpartum depression. She’s struggled with her weight and feeling desirable to her husband. It certainly doesn’t help that next door lives a neighbor who is not only dripping with seductive curves and a general air of sex, but that the woman makes constant eyes at Anne’s husband. After years working with affluent collectors and purveyors of fine art, Anne is now bombarded with the constant needs of her new child; the years of having endless hours to spend perfecting her hair and makeup or carefully honing her body with a personal trainer are over, the time now spent cleaning spit-up off of her dirty and oversized t-shirt or thrusting a nipple attached to an engorged breast into her screaming infant’s mouth. Cora isn’t an easy baby, in fact she’s the opposite of the sweet and cuddly angelic little figure Anne had in her mind during her pregnancy. She’d dreamed of days curled up in bed with her baby laying peacefully beside her, of afternoons spent pushing silky curls back from her daughter’s face as she gurgled happily. But the reality is that Cora does nothing but cry, and Anne feels like a veritable failure as a result.
So when a night away presents itself, Anne is intrigued. Marco insists they go next door to get away, to have a little time with other adults and have a few drinks. Anne is at first thrilled to disengage herself from the thickly formed vines of motherhood and spend a few hours in shoes that she used to walk in, to perhaps regain a bit of her old self. But when the babysitter cancels at the last minute and they cannot find another, Anne retreats into herself, becoming anxious to leave their daughter and questioning a night out. Why would she want to go next door, anyway? Seeing her neighbor Cynthia is only going to make her feel more self-conscious about her appearance; it will only solidify the festering feelings of unease in her own skin, will only remind her of the excess weight hugging her middle like a too tight hug. Anne doesn’t want to leave Cora. Something in her gut is telling her no. She’s uncomfortable with Marco’s suggestion : that they take the baby upstairs, lay her down for bed, and spirit themselves next door as quietly as they can, the baby monitor in tow. He promises her that they will check on baby Cora every half an hour, and since they are next door after all, what could possibly happen?
What happens is the unthinkable. When the couple returns home after midnight – only thirty minutes since the last check on their sleeping child – the door to their posh New York City brownstone in the well-maintained and quietly wealthy neighborhood stands ajar. Rushing upstairs, Anne and Marco find their baby girl missing, the crib standing vacant with the ugly truth.
Cora is gone. Vanished, without a trace.
The detective on the scene is seasoned and cautious. Detective Rasbach can tell right off the bat that something isn’t quite adding up here. The emotional distance between the couple is palpable. The stressed relationship with Anne’s parents is full of tension so thick it could be cut with a butcher knife. As the weeks go by, the detective will begin to peel back the many layers of the Conti family, laying bare their insecurities and their deepest secrets and forcing them to look at each other in ways they’d never imagined. Anne will discover the things her husband is keeping to himself, and Marco will unearth shocking discoveries about a wife he thought he knew.
. . . but . . . where is the baby? Where is Cora?
The Couple Next Door, the newest book by Shari Lapena, is full of twists and turns that will leave the reader dizzy and frenzied. As the plot unfolds from page to page, suspense and suspicion will mount and attack upon the senses, all leading up to the unexpected reveal. 4 out of 5 stars is given to this thrilling novel, and I recommend it to readers who enjoy fast-paced plots the like of Gillian Flynn and Megan Miranda. This quick read will leave you breathless and keep you guessing; the pivoting of the storyline coming as fast as you can turn the page.