A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena 2 1/2 Stars

I have to confess something. I didn’t LOVE The Couple Next Door. As a matter of fact, the first time I picked it up, I lost interest, put it down and returned it to the library. But I kept seeing it pop up in “best of” lists, so I wondered, does it get better?  It got rave reviews from People, The Globe and Mail, it a #1 national bestseller. Then a friend mentioned to me that it was one of her favorite books of the year. So I thought, okay, I’ve got to give this one another chance.

So I picked it up a second time and finished it. And it did get better from when I set it down. But I still didn’t love it. Am I missing something?

When I saw that Shari Lapena had another one coming out, I though, okay, okay, I should give this one a try.

So I did.

From the Publisher:

Karen and Tom Krupp are happy—they’ve got a lovely home in upstate New York, they’re practically newlyweds, and they have no kids to interrupt their comfortable life together. But one day, Tom returns home to find Karen has vanished—her car’s gone and it seems she left in a rush. She even left her purse—complete with phone and ID—behind.

There’s a knock on the door—the police are there to take Tom to the hospital where his wife has been admitted. She had a car accident, and lost control as she sped through the worst part of town.

The accident has left Karen with a concussion and a few scrapes. Still, she’s mostly okay—except that she can’t remember what she was doing or where she was when she crashed. The cops think her memory loss is highly convenient, and they suspect she was up to no good.

Karen returns home with Tom, determined to heal and move on with her life. Then she realizes something’s been moved. Something’s not quite right. Someone’s been in her house. And the police won’t stop asking questions.

Because in this house, everyone’s a stranger. Everyone has something they’d rather keep hidden. Something they might even kill to keep quiet.

My Review:

From the beginning, I was intrigued by the set up. Karen leaves her house without her purse and phone right in the middle of cooking dinner,  is in a car accident and has no memory of any of it. The thing is that for some reason, I had a hard time actually picturing the scenario and even what Tom and Karen looked like. From the beginning of the book, I had a hard time seeing them as real people.

This one also got some pretty impressive reviews. Publisher’s Weekly said it was a “diverting page turner,” and the Associated Press said, “Lapena keeps the well-developed twists churning, with each a surprise notch in this ever-evolving plot, and she continues this skillful storytelling until the stunning twist at the end.”

But something to me about the book was just a little hollow.

As I read on, the story unfolded more, and I met Brigid, Karen’s best friend and neighbor. Without giving anything away, I think I can say that Brigid is the neighborhood gossip. All she does all day long is sit in her big picture window and knit. Then she blogs about it. And she’s attractive and 32. Her husband works in the funeral business and is never home. And I just don’t buy her either. Because supposedly Karen hasn’t noticed anything odd about her and calls her a good friend. But, wouldn’t anyone wonder what the heck is up with someone like Brigid?

I read the whole book and there were some twists and turns but at the end I was just feeling a little meh. I apologize to anyone who loved the book, as I’m sure there are many people who did. For whatever reason it just didn’t gel for me.

I guess books can be a little like pizza. Everyone is sure the place they order from is the absolute BEST. But, everyone has a different favorite place and of course they can’t all be the best.



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