A Stranger In the House

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He looks at her, concerned. “How do you feel?” She wants to say, Terrified. Instead, she says, with a faint smile, “Glad to be home.”

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.

—                         —                         —

After finishing The Couple Next Door in record time last week, I decided to jump straight into Shari Lapena’s new book, A Stranger in the House. It is another crime thriller and features the same investigators, Detectives Razback and Jennings, but an entirely new cast of characters otherwise.

The story flows smoothly and I found myself just as engrossed as I was in the previous book. There isn’t the same sense of urgency in my approach because the crime isn’t centred around a missing baby. My maternal instincts weren’t in play this time – fiction or not – and the murder victim isn’t nearly so sympathetic. I still wanted to know who had killed him though and whether Karen would get off.

The thing about twisty authors is that the reader learns their style and it can become easy to predict certain things from that habit. I had theories about the identity of the murderer of course, but as the chapters wound down, it was easier to predict the outcome.

*** Minor Spoiler Ahead ***

I will say that I really appreciate that the author named the murdered man Robert, and the neighbour’s husband Bob. This threw me off for awhile because I thought that Karen was referring to Bob when she was brought into the hospital, semi-conscious and rambling Robert’s name. I kept waiting for him to pop up as sudden suspect, or at least to take on increased significance.

I loved this book as well and will anxiously await the announcement of another coming from this author. On her website, I learned that she is a local author so I am going to try to convince the library I work at to invite her for an author visit event in 2018!

The only other point of note is that the audiobook has a different narrator than the woman who read The Couple Next Door. I like both voices but this narrator pronounced certain things differently, (read: wrong in my opinion!), such as Det. Razback’s name, and this annoyed me.

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The Couple Next Door

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You never know what’s happening on the other side of the wall.

Your neighbour told you that she didn’t want your six-month-old daughter at the dinner party. Nothing personal, she just couldn’t stand her crying.

Your husband said it would be fine. After all, you only live next door. You’ll have the baby monitor and you’ll take it in turns to go back every half hour.

Your daughter was sleeping when you checked on her last. But now, as you race up the stairs in your deathly quiet house, your worst fears are realized. She’s gone.

You’ve never had to call the police before. But now they’re in your home, and who knows what they’ll find there.

What would you be capable of, when pushed past your limit?

—                         —                         —

Shari Lapena has been the bestselling author behind a couple of book club heavy hitters the last couple of years. Her book The Couple Next Door remains popular in my library and has received mostly rave reviews.

It is a crime thriller. A baby is abducted from her crib with no apparent evidence or motive. The parents are desperate to find her but police aren’t so sure that they are innocent.

The Couple Next Door is told from several different perspectives, but most of the chapters are from Anne (Mum), Marco (Dad), or the detectives’ points of view. This story is engrossing, and super easy to read. The language is simple but every character has multiple issues you have to work through, layers to peel back, while the reader tries to figure out who is behind Cora’s kidnapping.

Although abducting an infant is a heinous crime, there is little violence in the book and none of it is graphic. I wouldn’t consider The Couple Next Door to be a particularly dark book and several friends with young children were able to enjoy the book as well.

I loved this book until the very end. The only part I didn’t like was the final bit, after the arrest (or arrests), but I can’t elaborate without giving away an important plot point. You’ll just have to trust me that you’ll know it when you read it.

The narrator of this audiobook has a pleasant voice that was very easy to listen to. I would definitely be interested in other books she has read.

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The Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins)

The Girl on the Train

EVERY DAY THE SAME
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

UNTIL TODAY
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

—                         —                         —

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins has been one of the hottest book club picks around for a couple of years now. It is a thriller written from the points of view of three complicated, troubled women: Anna, Megan, and Rachel (the main character).

I picked this book to read because it has been so popular for such a long time, and I like to keep at least sorta-up on to date on these types of books, considering that I work as a library clerk. It makes it easier to chat with customers about different types of books, and make recommendations if I am well-read in more genres that just my favourite one or two. And lately, I’ve just been in a bit of a book rut so it was time to read a few outside of romance / erotica!

I liked the pacing of The Girl on the Train. It is an easy read that I got through in two sittings. I felt that the outcome of the novel was hidden for most of the novel, although I did suspect the killer’s identity several chapters before Rachel did.

One of things that I appreciated was the author’s decision to not make any particular characters the “good guys”. Every single character from the Rachel to the police officers and the “red-haired man in the train station” were flawed people, everyone with something to hide, to prove, to overcome. It helped the story to stay grounded in my opinion and stopped me from assuming the character’s POV as my own. I didn’t particularly cheer for any one or root against the other.

Overall, I did find this book to be entertaining but I am not sure why it received as much attention as it did. I can definitely name several books along this line that I would recommend much more strongly to another reader, The House Between Tides for one. This story was good, I just didn’t find it to be particularly memorable.

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