After finishing Shari Lapena’s psychological thriller The Couple Next Door, one of the best page-turners I’ve read in years, I previewed her newest book, A Stranger in the House. At the end of the preview, I couldn’t click fast enough to buy the book.Lapena is a master of weaving psychological drama into a gripping “whodunnit” tale. A Stranger in the House begins with a woman desperate to escape, jumping into her car, and driving so fast and recklessly that she crashes into a pole and ends up rushed to the hospital. Her name is Karen. We then meet a loving husband (hers?) coming home from work, anxious to see his wife of two years, only to find the house empty and dinner half-made.
A man lies dead on the floor of an abandoned restaurant. Who is he and who killed him? As the story unfolds, Lapena has the reader speculating about whether this dead man is somehow connected to Karen. Could she be the one responsible for the man’s death? The problem is, she just can’t remember what happened the night of the accident. Or can she?Karen’s best friend, Bridget, the neighbor from across the street, spends her days knitting, sitting by the window, watching the goings-on in the neighborhood. Bridget’s husband spends his evenings with the dead rather than with his wife.
Lapena gives us just a taste of each character’s life, just a glimpse into what they’re thinking, revealing just enough to raise our suspicions, or lay them to rest, then revealing a bit more, adding a twist here and there, until the reader begins to believe any of them could have done it.
Lapena is a former attorney and English teacher, of whom Lee Child, author of the Reacher series, says, “Real men read women writers because of books like this. Trust me.” A Stranger in the House will keep you up late — just one more chapter! Her mini-cliffhangers at the end of chapters make this one difficult to put down.