Book Review: A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena

Book Rating


Book Review

Oh, boy. It’s always unpleasant for me to review books I don’t like, because I feel guilty! But, wow, this book just did not work for me. My husband got it, along with others, for me as a graduation present (you’re reading words written by someone who has an English Masters now) and I am grateful to him for it because I really enjoyed Lapena’s last novel!

SPOILER ALERT: THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS! I can’t properly convey my distaste for this book without revealing some spoilers.

However…this one…this was not my cup of tea. First of all, I knew what was going to happen 1/3 in. All the action happened in the last 5 pages, which was annoying. I almost stopped reading this book multiple times. It definitely had an interesting premise, but I’m getting a little tired of amnesia stories. Quick synopsis is that Karen… good, sweet, Karen…erratically runs into a pole in a “bad” neighborhood and loses her memory…eerily close to where a man was murdered. God forbid the woman drives through the “hood”! Karen would never do such a thing..driving through the hood? No! Not Tom’s wife!

Anyway, Tom comes home to find his wife missing, dinner being cooked, and no note. He finds her cell phone and purse at home, and he is annoyed. Annoyed! Of all things! How could she leave without telling him? Why didn’t she finish his dinner!? *insert rolling eyes here* Tom is probably the worst character I’ve ever encountered. He’s cocky, he’s one-dimensional, he’s literally the worst. If he was real, I’d yell at him and tell him to get over himself, but I have trouble imagining he is real because he’s so boring. He seems to live in the 50’s where he expects his suburban wife to be perfect and to cook dinner, and be there when he gets home, and be perfect with no flaws.

There are literally three characters in this murder mystery, besides the lawyer and detective. Brigid, Tom, and Karen. Brigid is the neighbor who can’t conceive with her husband and has some kind of troubles with him. She is a good “friend” to Karen, but we quickly find that her and Tom have had an affair. Apparently, before Karen came into the picture for Tom, but albeit, it was an affair.

Karen is hiding a little bit more than Tom. She has an entire past to hide. Tom hasn’t inquired about her past, which is weird. How can you get married to someone without knowing everything about them? And then, also, this murder and Karen’s amnesia is the only problem in their otherwise perfect marriage. This is mentioned more than once. Their marriage is perfect. Perfect. K. What marriage is actually perfect? And the second this comes in, Tom is done. He’s all like “Woah, I didn’t sign up for having marital problems, I thought everything would be perfect. What’s happening here? I think I’m out.”

So, here’s my other problem besides Tom. There’s three characters. There’s only one possibility. Which is too obvious, so you have to know there’s some sort of twist, which I guessed almost 1/3 of the book in. Tom is obviously not smart enough or motivated to pull off the murder. Karen can’t remember shit (pardon my French), but she has a past to hide, and the detectives think she did it. Brigid and Tom had an affair, so immediately you think maybe crazy Brigid is trying to get rid of Karen and has set her up with murder. But, that’s too obvious and boring, so I knew that couldn’t be the case, so I guessed the ending. The whole point of books like these is to not guess the ending, and I guessed it!

Going back to Tom. He literally sleeps with Brigid “to protect Karen” because he thinks she was an eyewitness. LOL. How valiant of him! *insert another hardcore eye roll here*. I cannot with this book. Both Brigid and Karen were smitten with Tom, and Tom is obviously a sexist, arrogant prick. Why would these women pine after him? I hated all of the characters, none of them felt real. It honestly felt like Lapena was cranking out another mystery due to obligation. I didn’t feel any passion or any realism behind this one. It feels like it wasn’t totally thought through and even she didn’t relate to her characters in this novel. In the last one I read, at least I felt sympathy towards the characters and felt like they were more realistic. This one was simply not good. I’m not even linking this post because honestly, I don’t suggest it.

BUT, Shari Lapena is a talented writer, and I like the other books I’ve read! I do feel obligated to say that much!


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