minute. Invited to their next-door neighbours’ for dinner, they decide their six-month-old baby, Cora, will be fine asleep in her cot at home alone, if they check on her at half-hour intervals and have a baby monitor running.
Anne, in the middle of postnatal depression and watching her husband flirt, doesn’t really want to be there, knows they shouldn’t have left the child alone. “What kind of mother does such a thing? She feels the familiar agony set in – she is not a good mother.” Some time after 1am, she persuades a drunk Marco to leave, and they return home to an open front door, Cora not in her cot, and the end of their life as they know it.
It’s certainly true that The Couple Next Door opens brilliantly, its present-tense narrative adding to the urgency as Anne and Marco panic and the police arrive, discovering tyre tracks in the garage and the back door’s motion detector disabled. But Detective Rasbach and his team find nothing to show that anyone else has been in the house and the couple start to wonder if they’re falling under suspicion.
Lapena throws into the mix Anne’s mega-rich parents, leading us to wonder if kidnapping is a possibility, shifting her perspective around from Marco – “Cora means everything to him. She has been the one bright light in his life, the one reliable, constant source of joy, especially these last few months as things have fallen steadily apart and as Anne has become increasingly lost and depressed” – to Anne, to Rasbach, a calm, cool, colourless sort of a detective. “There is no denying the distress of the mother, and of the father, who looks badly shaken, but the whole situation doesn’t feel right.”