Someone We Know
Shari Lapena
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Buy *Someone We Know* by Shari Lapena online

Someone We Know
Shari Lapena
Pamela Dorman Books
304 pages
July 2019
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines' take on Someone We Know.

Written for the Big Little Lies crowd, Lapena's slick, readable mystery deals with divorce, families and marital infidelity while also managing to entertain. With its fresh structure and multiple points of view revolving around the sudden disappearance of Aylesford beauty Amanda Pierce, Lapena's book provides an opportunity for the exploration of the consequences of assumption and judgment. Robert Pierce reports his wife, Amanda, as a missing person. The last time he saw her was on Friday morning when she left for work. She had apparently packed for the weekend, reportedly going to Manhattan for a shopping weekend with her best friend, Caroline.

Robert denies there was any dirty work afoot, though he admits that Amanda was an outlier in this town of mostly older, wealthier women. Meanwhile, Olivia Sharpe--in a complex mix of love and frustration--worries about her 16-year-old son, Raleigh, after she sees a series of Raleigh's texts detailing his efforts to break into people's homes at night. Though he says he wasn't stealing ("more like just looking around"), Raleigh also faces the wrath of his father, Paul, who can't console himself with the idea that their son was led into this "completely, unacceptable criminal behavior," that involved breaking into places, snooping through people's lives and then sending emails from their email accounts.

At first, the various victims have no idea they've been spied upon, until Carmine Torres--who has only been living in the neighborhood for a couple of months--becomes the first recipient of an apology letter detailing Raleigh's nocturnal movements. Olivia tells best friend Glenda the whole mortifying story.t Glenda herself is worried sick about her own son, Adam, who sports a massive chip on his shoulder and points to Raleigh as the culprit. Adam's impulsivity leaves Olivia barely able sleep at night for worrying about him. He also seems to have taken to drinking with shocking enthusiasm.

At times, Someone We Know reads like a soapy pastiche of life in suburbia, complete with a cast of dubious and manipulative characters. At other times, the novel seems to be earnestly trying to make serious points about the ugly things that go on behind closed doors--even among families that appear to be "perfect" on the surface. Amanda's disappearance (and murder) is central to the mystery. Detective Webb and his partner, Detective Moen, discover her body in the trunk of a car, lying on her back with her legs folded up to one side, fully clothed in jeans and a sweater. The detectives turn up at Robert's door ready to talk about his wife, but all he can think about is the letter he got that morning after the news broke that his wife's body had been found.

The moral at the heart of the novel is that bad things happen to good people even when we try to live ethically "in such a crazy, cynical world." Olivia worries about what all this is teaching their son. She also knows Amanda Pierce had left her husband rather abruptly without telling him. Amanda was a striking woman: perfect, sexy, confident, always wearing smart clothes and fashionable sunglasses. All their husbands had watched her, practically drooling and stumbling over one another. Robert could be the perfect murderer--he kills her, reports her missing and tells the police that Amanda said she was going off with a friend for the weekend when she wasn't.

Like her prior novels, Lapena has a clever way of embedding her plot with a Hitchcockian flavor, giving Robert and his bored neighbor Becky Harris questionable morals without targeting them as prime suspects. Detective Webb is very much aware of Robert Pierce, but did he actually kill Amanda, stuff her body in the trunk and sink her car in the lake? Did he kill her in a jealous rage? He's not acting like the bereaved husband. The police know Becky was in Robert's house that night. If it gets out, it will destroy her marriage and her family. Becky stews over her inability to persuade the police that that they should be looking elsewhere. Perhaps her husband's insistence that nothing of consequence had happened between him and Amanda could be true.

Culminating in a series of confessionals to the police (a bit like Ann Cleeves' Vera Stanhope series), Olivia descends into turmoil. She's furious at Raleigh and furious at the fallout over her two anonymous letters. Becky feels like she's betraying Robert. Glenda thinks of the terrible burden of hiding the truth and her husband's slow realization that he might have "figured it all out." Plunging neighbors against neighbors, husbands against wives and friends against friends, Lapena delivers a well-written whodunnit with the potential of much more to come.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at Luan Gaines, 2019
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