Tag Archives: Psychological Thriller

The Couple Next Door, by Shari Lapena

Synopsis:

The Couple Next DoorIt 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.

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.

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.

Review:

Of the two psychological thrillers I read yesterday, this was definitely the better one, especially for being a debut. Many authors can’t seem to keep the threads of such a detailed story together, but Lapena does it effortlessly.

First, the characters. In my opinion, one of her strong suits. Each of the main players were well-crafted, their emotions and reactions rang incredibly true to the story playing out. But even her silent, secondary characters added to the tension of the story. For example – Graham, Cynthia’s reticent husband. Whether it was planned or happened by chance, the author turned him into a red herring. As the synopsis states, it all started at a dinner party. During that time, I’m not even sure whether Graham actually speaks, but from the beginning I had a sense that he (and his wife) were somehow involved. I won’t give away any spoilers here, but let’s just say that it did not turn out as it might have been set up to. This book is an example of how important titles really are. The Couple Next Door along with Graham’s off demeanor – I kept expecting him to play a bigger part almost up to the end.)

As I mentioned, I give the author credit for keeping so many details, twists, and turns straight. Unless you’ve ever tried to write a psychological thriller, I doubt you have any idea what a feat that is, and she does it remarkably well.

The only two things I found a bit distracting was 1) the fact that on at least three occasions, the author (through a character) went through a detailed checklist of what the characters (and the reader) knew to that point. To me anyway, it seemed liked the author’s way of saying, “Okay, are you with me so far?” And 2) several times in the middle of a high action scene, a character goes off on a narrative trip offering backstory that isn’t relevant at that moment. That information, although necessary at some point, was misplaced. I felt it could have been worked in at a better time. Aside from that, it was a pleasing read that I finished in one sitting.

As a side note, if you’ve read The Couple Next Door, and enjoyed it, you might be interested in her new book, A Stranger in the House, which releases August 15th. I know I’ll be getting a copy.

4/5 stars for the Couple Next Door


Second Life, by S.J. Watson

Synopsis:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Before I Go to Sleep, a sensational new psychological thriller about a woman with a secret identity that threatens to destroy her.

How well can you really know another person? How far would you go to find the truth about someone you love?

When Julia learns that her sister has been violently murdered, she must uncover why. But Julia’s quest quickly evolves into an alluring exploration of own darkest sensual desires. Becoming involved with a dangerous stranger online, she’s losing herself . . . losing control . . . perhaps losing everything. Her search for answers will jeopardize her marriage, her family, and her life.

A tense and unrelenting novel that explores the secret lives people lead—and the dark places in which they can find themselves—Second Life is a masterwork of suspense from the acclaimed S. J. Watson.

Review:

Second LifeHow much do I agree with the synopsis on a scale of 1-10? I’d come in mid-way at a 5. The story is told in first person, present tense. I generally have no issue with a story told that way, if it fits. This didn’t. Julia is angry throughout making it a tense read with little in the way of breathers.

I didn’t find the writing exemplary, but that in itself didn’t make it a terrible read. The book is divided into five parts, the first three being a bit boring and drawn out. The last two parts, especially the final one, is what redeemed the entire book. The author ties up the loose ends nicely, although there were a few things I found myself questioning. For example, at the end, Connor is missing. They know he is headed to Paris to meet his father. Julia is on the phone with everyone – except the police at that point. They all had to take a train to reach him, wouldn’t calling the authorities in Paris before they arrived have been the logical thing to do?

I picked this title up in a discount bargain bin, so it was worth the small price I paid. Had I paid full price, I would have left it feeling cheated. Not terrible, but not memorable either.


K.E. Garvey

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