Penguin Publishing Group: 8/23/16
eBook review copy; 320 pages
Anne and Marco Conti are attending a dinner party at their next door neighbors. Their sitter cancelled on them at the last minute and they know Cynthia and Graham don't like children, so they have left 6 month old Cora asleep next door, in their attached home. They have the baby monitor with them and are taking turns checking on her every half hour. As the party drones on, Anne is drunk and bothered by how much Cynthia is shamelessly flirting with Marco. When Anne finally persuades Marco to leave after 1 AM, they return home to find their front door open and baby Cora gone.
Detective Rasbach knows there is more going on than the couple is telling him and he works to slowly uncover hidden secrets and potential theories regarding what happened to Cora. It doesn't appear that anyone else has been in their home. However, the back door motion sensor light has been unscrewed and the Conti's garage door, which opens to the alley, was left open. There are tire tracks not from the Conti's car in the garage. It seems that someone went out the back door with Cora, but why was the front door open? Could the Cont's be covering up something more sinister?
This is a riveting, suspenseful debut novel that had me glued to the pages, overlooking, but noting, all the many flaws while I read. The chapters alternate between narrators so you can follow what each character is thinking as the search progresses. There are plenty of secrets which mean there are plot twists and reveals of secrets along the way. And, let's face it, in any case, real or fiction, with a missing baby the parents are the main suspects.
I kept reading wanting to know what happened next, as Lapena throws one surprise after another at the reader. Many of these twists I saw coming so they just confirmed my predictions, which is sometimes a motivation for reading a mystery. Some of the plot elements are also just a tad bit too convenient.
Now the flaws are numerous. The characters seemed very much all convenient cliches: the doubting detective, extremely wealthy parents, disappointing son-in-law, poor first time mother with postpartum depression and other issues (and postpartum depression is real, but somehow marginalized here), the sexy next-door-neighbor, a difficult fussy baby. Add to that the lack of real character development, and it's hard to like or truly care about these people.
In the end this was a hard one for me to rate. The ending almost led me to a two star rating. It is not an outstanding-must-read-book-of-the-summer. The writing is okay and the plot is pedestrian, BUT I did read it wanting to know what happened next, which is sometimes the whole reason to read a mystery. This is worthy of airplane book status. It's going to keep your attention, provide entertainment, and will be easy to jump back into during your trip.
Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.