Book review: A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena

Title: A Stranger in the House

Author: Shari Lapena

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Publisher: Penguin

Publication date: 15th August 2017

My rating: ★ ★ ☆ 


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.

My review:

A Stranger in the House tells the story of Tom and Karen, a couple who at first seem normal and lead a quiet life with few troubles. One day Tom arrives home to a bizarre scene: dinner seems to be half finished but there is no sign of Karen even though her belongings are still at home. The atmosphere is tense with an unsettling feeling that something sinister may have happened to Karen and Tom’s worries are confirmed when the police knock on his door informing him that his wife has been in a car accident in a troublesome part of town. This beginning was chilling and had the potential for an exciting mystery which I was sure I would enjoy.

Despite the strong beginning, the remaining part of the book left a lot to be desired. I could not sympathise with Tom or understand Karen as much as I tried even though I could tell that the author was trying to grow these characters as much as possible. Karen was hiding a lot from her husband and after her backstory was revealed I could see why she made some choices however could not understand how Tom could be so oblivious to her lies for such a long time. His side of the story made him appear weak and naive. Their neighbour, Brigid, worked well as a secondary character although I found her to be too nosy and irritating at times.

The plot in A Stranger in the House is complex and interesting enough to hold my attention however there were only three characters which didn’t allow for much speculation in regards to the outcome. I had already guessed the ending at the halfway point so the twists didn’t deliver the tension or excitement I would expect from a psychological thriller. I was also unimpressed by the conversational nature of the writing style as it made it seem choppy and too simple.

A Stranger in the House starts well and with enough potential to be a gripping thriller. However, it didn’t help that there were too few characters and I could not get used to the author’s writing style. This book may suit readers who are looking for a quick read with short chapters but I prefer psychological thrillers with more complex characters and want to be surprised by twists so it ultimately fell flat for me.

18 thoughts on “Book review: A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena

  1. Great review, Darina. You make some good points. I remember giving this book a fairly high rating at the time, but would probably revise that now. I do actually like the author’s writing style and the simplicity of it, but I agree that the mystery could be more complex. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      • I have read all four of her books and yes, the writing is almost exactly the same! The Couple Next Door was good, but the others have been quite average.
        If you didn’t like the writing style here, you may decide to skip her others. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent review, Darina. I actually read The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena and struggled with the plot, feeling like it was a bit too far-fetched for me. Your issues with this one don’t surprise too much actually hahaha Would you give the author another try in the future or is she on your ban list now? 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fab review! I’m sorry this story didn’t work for you… I was actually thinking of reading this some time soon, but I think I’ll go for a different story now instead for now. 😉 xx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh no, I actually bought both this one and The Couple Next Door recently. :S From your review (Which is awesome) it seems to me it will be a 3-star read for me at best, but I’ll give it a chance. I hate when thriller authors write flimsy characters, thinking that’s not supposed to be the strong point of the novel! I get it that thrillers are made for quick entertainment but every book needs strong characters if you ask me. 🙂 Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

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