I’ve been on a real thriller kick at the moment, and two of the best I’ve read have been The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena and The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances.
The Couple Next Door was a fast-paced story full of dramatic twists and turns, whilst The Girlfriend was more of a slow-burning, yet captivating read, but both were absolutely brilliant in their own ways. Read on for my reviews!
The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
‘Everyone is faking it, all of them pretending to be something they’re not. The whole world is built on lies and deceit.’
When Anne and Marco Conti’s babysitter cancels on them at last minute, they make a decision that has terrible consequences. They go to a dinner party next door and leave their baby Cora alone in the house: she’s asleep in her cot and they have the baby monitor with them at all times. What can go wrong?
Upon returning to the house, however, they find their baby gone, and no trace of an intruder. Suspicion immediately falls on them as the parents…but who is really responsible?
The Couple Next Door has been a huge bestseller, and so I came into this book with the hype surrounding it in the back of my mind. I’d heard so many people raving about it both on blogs and social media as well as in real life, and so it’s fair to say I was a little wary that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations.
I needn’t have worried. I ended up reading most of this book in one sitting, absolutely devouring it one Saturday morning as I just had to know what happened next! I’ve been really enjoying thrillers recently, but this has been one of the best I’ve read, constantly twisting and turning so that you never truly know what’s going on, and whose account you can trust.
The beginning of the book quickly throws you into the nightmare situation that faces Marco and Anne Conti: their baby has disappeared, and they feel as if they are partly to blame. After all, they left their baby alone in the house… However, you really feel for them, especially when it begins to become clear that they are considered the prime suspects.
From there the plot thickens, and one of the things I loved so much about this book was how it constantly evolved and changed. Just when you think you’ve worked out what’s happened, you are drip-fed another piece of information that changes everything. The characters evolve throughout the book in much the same way, their darkest secrets and thoughts clawing their way to the surface. Whilst the entire book is written in the third person, it continually focuses in on different characters, all of whom prove fairly unreliable in terms of telling their own side of the story, which means you never know what is truth or lies. It definitely does begin to become a little farfetched in places, but it’s so engrossing that I found it didn’t really matter.
The overall effect of the twisting plot and unreliable characters is a book that grips you from the start and doesn’t let go until the final page. Yes, the plot does become quite convoluted at points, but I didn’t realize this as I was reading the book, only in retrospect. I became so engrossed in the book and it’s world that anything seemed possible, and I certainly didn’t see the ending coming, as I sometimes do with thrillers. For me, this book lived up to its hype, and I would seriously recommend it to fans of crime and thriller books!
The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances
‘I love my son. That was all that counted. It didn’t matter that she was about to do something heinous.’
From the outside, Laura leads a charmed life: she has a rich husband, high-flying TV career and a charming grown-up son who dotes on her. However, when Daniel meets the beautiful Cherry, Laura begins to become increasingly concerned that she isn’t what she seems, and that she wants Laura’s charmed life and her son all for herself…
Unlike a lot of thrillers that I’ve really enjoyed (The Couple Next Door, for example, and The Girl On The Train), The Girlfriend is quite slow starting, with only little veins of unease running throughout the beginning. However, this proved very effective as the stakes gradually began to rise throughout the book, culminating in an explosive ending.
At the centre of the story is the dynamic between Laura, her son and her son’s new girlfriend Cherry, and I loved the slow building tension between the three that lead to one character telling an unforgivable lie that shapes the rest of the story. The unreliability of the characters made for many twists in the tale as what could have initially passed for a domestic drama (mother doesn’t like her new daughter-in-law) becomes increasingly sinister and emotionally charged.
It would be very easy to dislike both Laura and Cherry throughout this book. However, I found myself really sympathising with Laura throughout, despite the terrible mistakes she makes, and Cherry made for a fascinating character unlike any I’ve encountered before, even if she is totally unlikable. The lengths she’ll go to keep hold of Daniel become increasingly extreme, and there’s a sense that you never know what she’ll do next: a feeling shared by Laura, which is probably why she’s so easy to relate to. You experience the twists and turns in the tale along with Laura, as the story becomes ever more chilling.
This was definitely different to many other thrillers I’ve read but was just as enjoyable. The gradual change in tone throughout the book was really effective at drawing you along with it, and I found myself finishing the book within a couple of days as I was desperate to know what would happen next. This was a gripping read, that I’d recommend to anyone!
Have you read The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena or The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances? What did you think? Are there any other thrillers you’d recommend?