The Couple Next Door is one of the most underwhelming thrillers I’ve ever read.
Of course, it’s a page-turner. It kept my attention well enough that I read it to its end and the author’s choice of changing of structure where the ‘truth’ is revealed somewhere in the middle than the usual end, is pretty interesting too. However, because of this change in what is perhaps an infallible thriller novel structure, I feel that the book veered off from rolling out interesting plot twists to trying to one-up its own plot twists in mostly ridiculous ways. Sure, I was surprised by the plot twists after the reveal and I was definitely mind blown by the ones near the ending, but after I pulled myself out of the book’s world…They were just silly. Silly and too coincidental.
That aside, the characters are well-written. They are distinct and I can picture them well in my mind’s eye, but because the narrative doesn’t compel me to feel for them, they end up being flat. Moreover, there’s a significant divide between me and them—like they’re in a television show while I’m the viewer sitting on the floor with the television dividing my reality and theirs. I couldn’t bring myself into their world as a spectator because I was constantly aware of my own reality. Or in other words, I wasn’t absorbed into the story at all.
Also, I think that Lapena could’ve play more on the title and maybe make the book more ambiguous by including Graham in the nefarious activities of the schemers and all that. There are two couples next to each other, after all. Sure with the ending we’re given, it can be said that the focus switched from the Anne-Marco couple (the one who lost their baby) to the Cynthia-Graham one. But, the thing is, we already know the perpetrator will be caught pretty fast in the Cynthia-Graham issue so that’s not an exactly nerve-wrecking moment.
So yeah, as mentioned at the beginning, The Couple Next Door is pretty underwhelming. I wasn’t brought to the edge of my seat and I didn’t really feel anything for the characters at all. It’s just a thrill-less thriller for me.