The Couple Next Door, Shari Lapena


One-Sentence Summary: Family members trying to get more money to save their business by kidnapping another family member (baby) but who has the perfect plan?

Anne and her husband Marco, are having a dinner party with their neighbour Cynthia and Graham. Anne wants to go home, but Marco seems to enjoy spending time with Cynthia, who has been flirtatious to him the entire night. It's one o'clock in the morning, and their six-month-old baby is still sleeping next door.

Anne can't bear with Cynthia anymore and insists on returning home. But when she goes upstairs to check on their baby, what they find is an empty crib. Both are shocked by the missing baby, and they call the police. Besides the loosen light bulb at the back of the house, Detective Rasbach can't find anything which leads to the intruder. He continues observing the parents and Anne's family, still maintaining his suspicion to the parents. Meanwhile, Anne and Marco are thinking to offer a couple of millions to the kidnapper directly instead of offering money for information.

Both Anne and Marco knew that they are the main suspect in the case. Anne has a postpartum depression which probably leads to the police to suspect that she killed the baby. Marco researched postpartum depression on his computer before this, and he worried that the police might suspect Anne. At the same time, he is at risk of losing his company. Will this cause the detective to put him as a suspect as well?

I give an extra star for the plot twist. Never see that coming.

SPOILER WARNING! Graham wants to tell the police that they had a camera on the backyard, but Cynthia objects the idea. The reason for having the pinhole camera at the backyard is to record Cynthia having sex with other men which turns Graham on to see her with them. Unfortunately, she wasn't able to get very far with Marco. That explains why she lied to Rasbach that Marco made a sexual advancement to her on that night.

Mrs Bleeker, who used to be Anne's English teacher, told the detective that three students were hassling Anne at that time. The three prettiest girls in school later ended up one in the hospital and the other two were distancing themselves from Anne. There were some closed-door meetings with the parents, but Mrs Bleeker has no idea what happened after that.

Janice, one of the prettiest girls in the school who teased Anne during their school time, tells Rasbach about the unforgettable incident. One day, Anne came into the toilet, and they teased her again. She snapped and pushed Susan to the cement wall, and it hit hard on Susan's head. Debbie went to ask for help, and the headmistress came. The ambulance came later to take Susan to the hospital while they were waiting for their parents. Before Anne left with the headmistress, she looked normal and asked Janice what happened.

The police finally leave their house after not getting any calls from the kidnapper. Anne receives a bubble envelope and finds the mint-green onesie inside. There is a note ensuring the baby's safety and also asking for the ransom of five million dollars. The exchange will be on Thursday at 2 p.m. Marco feels regret now, but it will be worth it. When he gets Cora back, and he has the money, everything will be fine. He'll have two and a half million dollars to get his business on track again. His accomplice, Bruce Neeland, will get his half share and go away with his mouth shut. When Marco is going alone to deliver the money to the kidnapper, he is not sure whether he is entirely safe. Richard, Anne's stepfather, will probably call the police. He suggested it before, but everyone objected his idea. What if Richard calls the police behind Anne or before Marco confirms that he already has Cora? He can't risk both his and Bruce's life.

When Marco arrives at the designated spot, he expects the baby will be in the infant car seat but what he found was an empty seat. He is shocked and later hit from behind. When Marco wakes up, the money in the car trunk has gone, and Cora is not in the garage. He doesn't know what to do. But the rest has been waiting anxiously at home still haven't received any calls from him. Richard decides to contact the police and give the details to Rasbach. The police arrive at the old garage. There is no baby there, but Marco is speechless and in shock.

Meanwhile, Graham and Cynthia have been arguing for days since the night of the missing baby. Graham wants to destroy the video because it is illegal to use a hidden camera to secretly film sex acts and also it will end his career as well. Although he knows it is the right thing to report it to the police, he doesn't want to get into trouble. Cynthia wants to keep the video so she can use it against Marco and ask for money. The video clearly shows that Marco is going into his house at 12:31 a.m. the night of the kidnapping and coming out the back of his house at 12:33 a.m., carrying the baby in his arms and into his garage.

Marco finds out Bruce, or his real name is Derek Honig has been savagely murdered in a cabin in the Catskills. He wants to give some information about Bruce without getting incriminated. So, he and Anne thought that they had seen him before around their house and they tell the detective about it.
Anne believes that Marco is having an affair with Cynthia, especially after she saw Marco came out from Cynthia's patio at the back of the house. She confronts Cynthia and asks for the truth. Initially, Cynthia is hesitant but keeps denying the affair. She suddenly changes her mind and shows her the video of Marco carried their baby on the night of the kidnapping.
When Anne is thinking to leave Marco and going to her parents' house, she suddenly remembers where she saw Derek Honig. He was her father's friend. Marco begins to suspect that his father-in-law orchestrates the entire kidnapping. He recalls back how Derek came to him one day and treat him as a friend. Derek is the one that pushed him to ask for money from Richard. On that day when Richard refused to lend him money to save his business, Derek also suggested the kidnapping plan.

Anne's mother Alice has been suspecting Richard all this time that he is having an affair with another woman. But if what Marco said is true, she feels he is horrible and scary. For quite some time, she doesn't love him anymore, and Richard knows that he can't leave her because of her money. Richard's business is failing as well, but Anne doesn't mind to keep pouring her own money into the company to help him save face and also she loved him at the beginning. The worst thing is the woman that he is having an affair is Cynthia, a friend and neighbour of his daughter's, and also almost half of his age.

Anne couldn't sleep, and she sees her father is going out. She decides to follow him to the forested ravine, and she sees her father with a bundle in his arms. Her father gets Cora back for her. He tries to explain that the kidnapper contacted him an hour ago and arranged another meeting.

Marco able to cut a deal with the police, and he will be free from prosecuted. Richard is under arrest for the murder of Derek Honig and conspiracy to kidnap Cora. During that late night, Anne confronts Cynthia and tells her everything so that she no longer blackmailing Marco with the video. Cynthia has gone too far with her words and got killed by Anne. But Anne doesn't remember anything at all when Marco asks her about it.

Rating: ★★★
More reviews can be found on Goodreads: The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena.

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