Book Review: Someone We Know by Shari Lapena
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Mystery, Suspense
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books (July 30th, 2019)
Length: 304 pages
In Shari Lapena I’ve found a new mystery-thriller author to watch, first thanks to An Unwanted Guest and now Someone We Know, another wildly entertaining can’t-put-down novel offering a classic who-dunnit plot with a modern twist. This time, we’re transported to a quiet suburban neighborhood in upstate New York, where life is about to become a lot more interesting for its residents.
It all began with a missing person report filed by Robert Pierce, whose wife Amanda had not returned from a purported trip out of town with a friend. At first, believing Amanda to have left her husband, the police were not too concerned. But then came the call about her car found submerged in the shallows of a lake, and stuffed in the trunk was Amanda’s badly beaten body.
Meanwhile, Olivia Sharpe is reeling along with the rest of her neighbors at the news about the murder, but she is also distracted with some big problems of her own. She has just found out that her teenage son Raleigh has been breaking into other people’s homes, hacking into their computers. Raleigh on his part swears that he has never taken anything and that no one has ever suspected he was there, but nevertheless, Olivia is consumed with guilt, leading her to write anonymous letters of apologies to the owners of the houses her son had broken into. To her horror, one of them is Robert Pierce, whose place is now crawling with police dusting for fingerprints in the investigation of Amanda’s murder. What they find is shocking—it appears there’s a lot more going on in this sleepy little town than anyone realized.
What an insanely addictive book this was, packed with all kinds of delicious mysteries and suspense. Lapena knows just how to get under your skin, making you dwell upon the kinds of secrets your neighbors might be hiding. She’s also an expert at unraveling your nerves, at knowing just what buttons to push to make you squirm. I mean, who wouldn’t be disturbed at the idea of a stranger in your house while you were away, snooping at all the personal information on your computer? Even when the home invader is a guileless and confused teenager like Raleigh, who can say what he was really up to and what kinds of things he’s seen? And no surprise, that ends up being an important aspect of this book.
But what attracted me most to Someone We Know was the murder mystery premise, which, like in An Unwanted Guest, was almost a throwback to the Golden Age detective classics. But unlike those stories, the investigators are not the central characters. We’re given a glimpse into the progress of the case though the eyes of a police detective, but he only plays a small part in this narrative which is predominantly about the various residents in the neighborhood. There are lots of characters to keep track of, but they’re all very fascinating and easy to remember in no small part due to the respective scandals and dirty laundry they’re all trying to hide. Like a juicy soap opera with all its tangled relationships and shocking secrets, the drama in this book was like crack.
And man, how the plot ended up jerking me around—but in a good way. You’ll think you’ve figured something out, only to have something happen to make you reconsider all your assumptions. Then almost right away, something else will happen to bring you right back to your original theory, but now, of course, you’ll be seconding guessing everything. And on and on it went, with the story hurling its twists at me left and right. The main mystery, of course, was who killed Amanda. But there are lots of other threads playing out along side it as well, making you wonder how they all tie together. As always, you can never truly take a character by their word or infer too much about their actions. That’s a lesson I learned with the last novel I read by the author.
All told, Someone We Know was everything I wanted in a mystery: delightful unexpected twists, plot developments and clues that kept me guessing, and plenty of suspects who all had their individual secrets and motives. I also enjoyed the classic feel and structure of the story along with its quick pacing and unpredictability. In short, I would highly recommend this one to fans of the genre.