The Couple Next Door
At the heart of this novel is the life of a 6-month-old little girl named Cora. Parents are suppose to protect and nurture their children from the moment they enter this world. Leaving an infant unattended and alone so that they can have a night out with friends is unconceivable and wrong. Anne and Marco Conti decided to have a birthday dinner in honor of their friend Graham’s 40th birthday but were told by his wife Cynthia to leave fussy little Cora at home. A babysitter in place but at the last minute she cancels, they have a choice to cancel their dinner plans or take her along. Marco is determined to attend this dinner but Anne states she will remain home until he badgers her and persists that she can leave the child alone in her crib asleep, take along their baby monitor to hear her cry and then every half hour check on her. So, what could go wrong? Everything! The dinner party in progress and each one taking a turn one taking longer because Cora was fussy and would not go back to sleep or take milk. Anne gets frustrated but she returns seemingly okay and then Marco checks on his daughter later on. Both a little tipsy the author sets the perfect stage for what they encounter when they finally leave the dinner party much to Marco’s chagrin wanting to stay longer. Entering their home something seems off and then they realize that Cora is missing. Screaming and yelling does not bring her back and although they check and search the house to no avail they finally call the police. Anne worries after calling the police that they will suspect the parents are behind the kidnapping for some reason. Marco is shaking while she is screaming at him that it’s his fault for leaving Cora unattended. But, she didn’t have to and choices are made within this book that will leave you wondering who is responsible and who just acts on impulse or other reasons. Detective Rasbach and Detective Jennings are on the case and they immediate have officers searching the house, fingerprints and the usual preliminary work done with most cases. Then the questioning starts and each one is required to remember the sequence of events of the entire evening hoping to recall something that will help them find Cora. Each one supposedly checking on the child and neither reporting anything odd or out of place except the front door was opened about three or four inches which might have been left opened after one of them checked on Cora. Things do not always seem as they appear through out the novel as the author reveals that Anne is depressed and has is taking pills to take care of it but mixing that with alcohol might have an adverse affect. But, there is much more to unravel before the final curtain and the kidnapper is revealed.
Throughout the even Cynthia Stillwell the wife of the man whose birthday it was seemed bent on flirting and monopolizing Marco’s time and at one point they are a little too drunk and things get out of hand. Anne sensing something wants to leave and return home to care for her daughter.
Enter Anne’s parents Richard and Alice who dislike Marco and feel she married beneath her and felt that since his family was not wealthy yet hardworking she failed to marry someone of her own economic station. Anne could care less she adored him but when the veil of darkness lifts and fog clears she might be ultimately shocked at what she learns. Marco is not close with his parents yet Anne is with hers because they often pay for things when she cannot. They bought her their house and they even invested in Marco’s business hoping he would be a success. Both Marco and Anne claimed they checked on Cora using their back door but did they close it? What about the motion detector why was the bulb loosened and did any of their neighbors see anything? Questioning each one at their home and then separately Rasbach seems astute, smart and does not easily flare up or show any emotion while questioning both Anne and Marco yet you feel it seems he empathizes with Anne more. She is fragile and easily gets upset and cannot seem to function or focus at times. Delving into her past the detective learns about her as a teen and three girls that bullied her in school and the end result was not what you or the detective expected to find when questioning one of the three girls in the present.
Mental disorders are at the heart of this novel as we learn more about Anne and the fact that at times she acts out but cannot recall what she has done. She has dissociative order and you wonder what she perceives as real and what she refuses or cannot acknowledge. At times she finds herself wondering if she killed her daughter and cannot remember when confessing to the detective and alerting him to the fact that her daughter was fussy and she hit her. Did she do more?
At the spur of a moment they decide to offer money to the kidnappers directly to get their daughter back and this is where is gets interesting. Going to her parents they go in front of the cameras and recall some of the facts that were incorrectly stated at first and then offer quite a bit of money for Cora’s return. Without any hesitation her father agrees and Marco sets up the switch the money for the baby but it goes wrong.
A neighbor comes forward with information that might change it all about a car that she saw at the time when Marco was supposedly checking on his daughter but can’t recall the total description but enough that might shed some light.
Accusations fall on everyone and then Marco admits to something that might change it all when he comes home without Cora and Anne withdraws even more. Learning about her husband and Cynthia triggers her anger and when questioning Marco he attempts to play it as just fooling around at the party where Cynthia says it was more.
Hidden beneath the veneer of someone is the harsh truth and when we hear the two that conspire to kidnap Cora speak you will understand that not everything you see is real and that someone is hiding in plain sight but who?
Calling her parents and her father claiming that he has been dealing with the kidnappers and that the cell phone she found was mailed to him helps readers understand why he is such a dominant force and tells Marco he is running the show.
Anne relives something from her past and we see her in action with her bullies. Then she takes a look at a photo and something else draws her memory to the past but what about the person triggers something that will take this entire kidnapping in a different direction.
When money is at stake and your whole life will change without the support of someone holding the purse strings, what happens to others in the same situation might mirror what Anne and Marco are going through.
A confession by someone to the police sheds a strong light where you won’t expect it and the final outcome will surprise readers as lies, betrayals, manipulations, hate, deceits and murder take a front row seat as the kidnapper is eliminated and the truth behind this complex plot and deception are revealed by author Shari Lapena who takes us inside the mind a kidnapper so diabolical and sounding so justified this person almost feels that he/she has been wronged and should go free.
Who kidnapped Cora and will she be returned? What happens at the end that will send a chill down your spine? What happens when Cynthia and Anne face off and Anne learns two harsh realities? Will there be as sequel? What exactly happens at the end to make you realize that there is more? Ask Anne: She told me to tell you the reader She’s has not idea what you are talking about and only the author knows for sure we hope she will tell us soon. This book should teach parents, babysitters, grandparents and any caregiver of a child what not to do. NEVER LEAVE A YOUNG CHILD ALONE IN A HOUSE OR A CAR! Watch out for THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR! CHOOSE YOUR NEIGHBORS WISELY
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ Magazine