Lapena's Someone We Know is an intricate, tightly woven thriller set in a small community in upstate New York, where residents act out the social niceties and form book clubs to feel connected to one another, acquaintances without breaching the boundary of intrusion.
Behind the scenes of this upscale neighborhood, things get more interesting, families acting out dramas with far reaching consequences. Take Rawley, a teenager who regularly sneaks out at night to break into people's homes when they're gone. Curious at first, Raleigh has become addicted to the thrill, his intrusion made even more exciting by hacking into home computers to learn people's private business.
Then there is Amanda Pierce, who leaves home for a weekend and fails to return. Her husband reports Amanda missing. Police assume it is a case of "runaway wife" until her car is found submerged in a local waterway, her badly beaten body nestled in the trunk. Now the case becomes a murder investigation. Amanda's husband, Robert, is the most obvious suspect on a list compiled by detectives Webb and Moen, a methodical male/female team intent on solving the murder. (An interesting perspective on characters: Most of the critical protagonists are fully-fleshed, while Lapena restricts her investigators to one-dimensional actors, black and white as opposed to the varying colors of other individuals.)
Someone We Know is a bit of a potboiler, but in a really clever way, the smooth facade of normalcy shattered by out of control teens, unfaithful spouses and the careless gossip that spreads among "friends" in the guise of curiosity. It is in privacy that Lapena masterfully manipulates her characters, revealing their true intentions, co-dependencies and manipulations. These people, and others with whom they interact in both friendship and infidelity, are plagued with the usual issues of contemporary life--except one of them knows everyone else's secrets, and one is a cold-blooded killer. Infidelity, alcoholism, mistrust and, eventually, fear create a toxic brew with a healthy dose of twists and dangerous assumptions.
Lapena steps up her game in this thriller, building on a foundation rife with possibilities. In a city filled with faceless people, crime settles into a well-kept neighborhood, the daily routines and casual awareness spiced with aberrations that lurk in the dark, inflicting the community with fear and suspicion as a murderer walks among them.