A STRANGER IN THE HOUSE - by Shari Lapena

A STRANGER IN THE HOUSE - Shari Lapena
Published: 2017 - Pamela Dorman Books.
Pages: 305.
Genres: Adult / thriller / contemporary / mystery
Triggers/Content Advisory: Sexual innuendo.
Format: Paperback.
Source:  Thank you so much to Penguin Random House SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
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.


Thrillers are my happy books. Some readers might have fluffy contemporaries as their go-to read when they want to relax, but thrillers are my personal preference. Racing through a story is therapeutic for me - so is being hit by all kinds of twists and shocks.
But while I didn't love this particular thriller, I did still enjoy it.



The pacing is perfect. The story flows well, and everything is revealed naturally and effortlessly. It's easy to read, fast, exciting, creepy, and fantastically tense. There is a terrific sense of urgency from beginning to end, and I think the author excels at making you feel as if time's running out. That's tied to the nature of the story, I guess, but still - everything is continually being yanked to the next chapter, the next page, and the next twist. And it keeps you reading.

Unfortunately, the dialogue is weak, unremarkable, and too on-the-nose. No one really has a distinct voice, and although it's nice and tight, it could definitely use more life. It also comes across very unrealistic at times, and there's no subtext (which is something I miss in a thriller).

The story's set in a small suburban neighborhood. I like that, and I like the setting, but it needs more fleshing out. It's very limited, and you don't get to see much of the world around the story. This can work, but in this book it feels superficial and unnaturally removed from the rest of the world.

She feels calm, detached, as if none of this is really happening. It's like a dream, or as if it's happening to someone else. She's lost her opportunity to flee. It's too late now.


There are a lot of common tropes that're used in the story, and ones I can't specifically mention for spoilers' sake. At first I was hesitant and disappointed with these clichés, but I soon grew to appreciate the unique angles the author took with them. They're cliche, but the focus is on a different side of them. So in the end they aren't a deal breaker for me.

The ending is so disappointing. The 'twist' is good, but the story cuts from the middle of the arrest conflicts and interrogations to a few months later - and by doing so we miss out on a ton of integral scenes. That annoys me, and I feel like the author did that because perhaps she didn't know how to wrap it up properly? For whatever reason, it's a cop-out because there's more I think the reader should've been allowed to witness.

This is their love story, come crashing down around their ears. Does he wish now that she'd never said yes, that she'd never agreed, finally, under his steady pressure, to get married? He doesn't now, and anyway, it's too late to change anything. And yet, these last two years have been the happiest of his life. Until all this happened.


The characters are okay. I really love Tom and Karen's relationship and I love its development and conflict. But their individual characters need more rounding out. Similarly, the secondary characters are flat and dull with vague personalities - if any - and the detectives in particular have no concrete personality or depth. The focus is on Tom, Karen, and Brigid, but I would have liked the secondary characters to get more attention - especially since the detectives actually do have quite a bit of page time.



A Stranger In The House is a fast, tame, clever thriller, but its generally flat characters and frustrating dialogue make for an underwhelming read.