Book Review – A Stranger In The House by Shari Lapena

Published: 27th July 2017
Started reading: November 22
Finished reading: November 28
Trigger warnings: Domestic violence, sexual references, drug use

Synopsis (Goodreads)

You’re waiting for your beloved husband to get home from work. You’re making dinner, looking forward to hearing about his day.

That’s the last thing you remember.

You wake up in hospital, with no idea how you got there. They tell you that you were in an accident; you lost control of your car whilst driving in a dangerous part of town.

The police suspect you were up to no good. But your husband refuses to believe it. Your best friend isn’t so sure. And even you don’t know what to believe . . .


This was a book that had me fully invested from the first page to the last. It is a superbly crafted thriller, woven with intricate details and containing no shortage of suspense. Engagingly written with strong, well-developed characters, the plot kept me guessing all the way until an unexpected revelation at the end.

It is the second book I have read by Shari Lapena, and I can conclude that she is the ideal author if you like intense crime thrillers with complex characters who all have that little something to hide.

She makes the art of writing thrillers feel almost effortless. Her writing style is, on the face of it, very simple. It is mostly short, brisk sentences with no lengthy descriptions or inventive similes and metaphors. It feels simple, but is extremely effective and I am very taken by her ability to convey so much in so few words, all while advancing the plot.

I especially felt this in the beginning, where tension and atmosphere builds and it quickly becomes a compelling read. It brings about a real sense of urgency as the plot gradually escalates and a wider mystery develops. What did Karen really do that night? How is Brigid connected to it all?

The characters are all very interesting, and not who they originally appear to be. Lapena gives the reader a fairly deep insight into their thoughts and feelings, but it is only later on in the book where you get the full picture, as their secrets are disclosed. Some of these secrets are subtle and innovative, others were a bit cliched.

Although Tom’s judgement left a lot to be desired, I kind of found myself occasionally sympathising with him for some reason. Karen was a very difficult character to work out, and even in the end I don’t think I managed to work her out completely. She was particularly complex, and all I can say is that there is a lot more to her than there appears on the surface!

As the plot well and truly thickens, I thought the timing of the twists was very good, and so was the dialogue. The biggest problem I had with the plot was that it takes the police longer than the reader to find out about certain aspects of the case. There were times where I knew what the outcome of a police interview was going to be before it reached the point where they were given a crucial piece of information, which made these moments somewhat less dramatic.

Still, it never stops being an absorbing read. And the ending? Well, I certainly did not see it coming! I still have not really made up my mind on if it was a good ending or not, but it had an impact, and it altered my perspective on the book.

Overall, this is a highly effective, well written thriller that throws up more and more questions the deeper you get into the book. The pace is not especially fast and some small parts of it may feel slightly repetitive, but it always held my interest. A very good book from a deftly talented author.


In short, I really liked this book. It is the epitome of a strong, well constructed thriller. I look forward to reading Shari Lapena’s latest novel, An Unwanted Guest.

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

13 thoughts on “Book Review – A Stranger In The House by Shari Lapena

  1. Brilliant review, Stephen! I’ve had my eye on this one for very long but heard some mixed thoughts so wasn’t sure if I wanted to read it. I am glad that the ending was unexpected and the story line intense so I may just pick it up after all. Glad you enjoyed it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for kind words, Darina. I am glad you liked my review!
      I have seen the mixed reviews as well, and having read the book I can understand why some aspects of the story might split opinion. I guess I just appreciate how Shari Lapena can produce an engaging thriller by using a simple, though effective writing style.
      If you do read it, I would be really interested in hearing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love Shari Lapena’s books too. I love how you articulated her writing style, I completely agree! It keeps me on the edge and unable to put down her book once I start reading.

    Liked by 1 person

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