Tag Archives: mystery

#bookreview: The Couple Next Door, by Shari Lapena

the-couple-next-doorJust before Christmas, I finished reading a wonderful mystery/thriller, The Couple Next Door, by Shari Lapena. This was a book that was impossible to put down, but with one thing and another, I’m only now getting around to reviewing it.

But first, THE BLURB:

It all started at a dinner party. . .
A domestic suspense debut about a young couple and their apparently friendly neighbors—a twisty, rollercoaster ride of lies, betrayal, and the secrets between husbands and wives. . .

.Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all—a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately focuses on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story.

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Inside the curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something. Both Anne and Marco  soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they’ve kept for years.

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What follows is the nerve-racking unraveling of a family—a chilling tale of  deception, duplicity, and unfaithfulness that will keep you breathless until the final shocking twist.

MY REVIEW:

The Couple Next Door, by Shari Lapena is a tale of love, fear, greed, and secrets. Nothing is what it seems, except for the central plot point: A baby is missing from her crib.

Anne and her husband, Marco Conti have gone to a dinner party in the house next door. The sitter has cancelled at the last minute, and the hostess has insisted on an adults only party, as she doesn’t like children. Since they share a wall with these neighbors, they have brought the baby monitor with them, leaving their baby home in the row house next door.

The baby, Cora, disappears during the dinner party.

No one is free of secrets.

Rasbach is the detective, Jennings is his assistant. As the case unfolds they discover that Anne Conti’s family is more than merely rich. They are old money, and secure in their sense of privilege, and her parents are quick to offer a ransom. At every step of the way, Anne’s parents are interfering, shielding Anne and Marco.

Little by little, evidence emerges about each character, none of it flattering. Anne herself is not without secrets.

Anne is a well-drawn character, with a mysterious history she has never fully told to her husband. She is portrayed realistically, flaws and all. Marco is also a flawed protagonist, which makes him intriguing.

I liked how well the story flows. With many twists and turns, it never stalls or halts. This is a gripping mystery, with an ending that took me by surprise, despite the fact the clues were there all along.

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Fantasy–It’s a Mystery

MSClipArt MP900390083.JPG RF PDMy favorite books to read are, of course, fantasy. But I love mysteries too, and guess what? The best fantasy books involve a deep mystery.

In the best fantasy tales, at the outset quests are undertaken to achieve a goal against terrible odds, and the basis of that goal could be an object with a mysterious history, or it could be to kill a despot with immense power, the source of which is–a mystery.

And then, once the heroes are made aware of the whereabouts of the object (or person) they seek, the mystery deepens. Obstructions appear in their path, things that both block and enlighten them as they overcome them. With each small victory they learn something new, some random thing that might ultimately be the final clue to removing the source of power from the evil dude’s grasp, thus ending his reign of terror.

480px-Schmalz_galahadDuring the process of this, the heroes grow as people. Where they were comfortable in their secure, middle-class existence, or naive but worldly street-urchins, the experience of solving the mystery and enduring the hardships to arrive at the final scene changes them, some for the better, and some–maybe not.

This also happens in a great murder mystery, or a gripping political thriller.  In writing classes and groups this is called the story arc, but in my opinion, it’s just the basis of good story.  For authors just starting out, StoryStarter.com has a great page.

Along the way, the questers may encounter things that don’t appear in the real world we currently live in, and for me that’s part of the fun.

I grew up in a very rural area, surrounded by deep woods. We left Seattle and moved there when I was nine. Beyond the perimeter of our property lay terrifying things–bears, wildcats–things a nine-year old city-girl has no idea of how to deal with.

Dragon_rearing_up_to_reach_medieval_knight_on_ledgeDaily, my sister and I walked up a 1/4 mile long dirt driveway through the forest to the school bus. A large hill was in the center, and for the first year I lived there, I hated the place more than anything. I hated the school, I hated the bus, I hated my parents for destroying my life.

Sometimes our father would have to drive us to school, if bears were in the horse pasture that bordered our property. We would drive past, and he would point out the wonders and explain that with a mother bear and her cub in the horse pasture, we had to be very careful that morning. “They’re rare, and we’re fortunate to be able to see them once in a while. It’s just the mother will see you as a danger to her cub, so no bus for you today.”

All I knew was the woods were full of danger, and my parents apparently didn’t care, because they made me walk through them daily. I did walk through them and gradually, as summer vacation loomed, I began to see the possibilities of living in a lake-house, where there was no restriction on how many days you swam.

That first summer I discovered waterskiing, and my whole point of view about living all year round in a vacation-house was changed. Over the first few months I learned to love the deep woods around us, and to know and recognize the birds and animals who grudgingly endured our noisy, selfish presence.

This personal journey from ignorance to understanding the characters go through while solving the underlying mystery is one of the most important elements of a story. It is hard to know how a character will react to a given situation, and that is the best part of writing them.

DR 3 Prism Ross M KitsonRoss Kitson’s epic Darkness Rising series is one of my favorites, because the circumstances force the characters to  evolve in unexpected ways. Jeffrey Getzin’s fabulous Prince of Bryonae and his novellas featuring D’Arbignal are also good examples of how circumstances shape characters.

I highly recommend both these indie authors, if you are looking for high quality indie fantasy.

A Lesson for the Cyclops Jeffrey Getzin

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