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Fiction General

A Stranger in the House

by (author) Shari Lapena

Publisher
Doubleday Canada
Initial publish date
Aug 2017
Category
General, Suspense, Thrillers
  • Paperback / softback

    ISBN
    9780385686976
    Publish Date
    Aug 2017
    List Price
    $24.95
  • Paperback / softback

    ISBN
    9781400026951
    Publish Date
    Jun 2019
    List Price
    $11.99
  • Paperback / softback

    ISBN
    9780385686990
    Publish Date
    Jun 2020
    List Price
    $21.00

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Description

Shari Lapena’s new thriller, AN UNWANTED GUEST, is available now!
“Smart and suspenseful. . . you'll never see the ending coming.” --PureWow
In this neighborhood, danger lies close to home. A domestic thriller packed full of secrets, and a twisty story that never stops—from the bestselling author of The Couple Next Door
He looks at her, concerned. “How do you feel?” She wants to say, Terrified. Instead, she says, with a faint smile, Glad to be home.

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.

About the author

Contributor Notes

SHARI LAPENA is the internationally bestselling author of the thrillers The Couple Next DoorA Stranger in the HouseAn Unwanted Guest and Someone We Know, which have all been Globe and MailNew York Times and Sunday Times (London) bestsellers. Her books have been sold in thirty-five territories around the world. She lives in Toronto.

Excerpt: A Stranger in the House (by (author) Shari Lapena)

Chapter One

On this hot August night, Tom Krupp parks his car–a leased Lexus–in the driveway of his handsome two-story home. The house, complete with a two-car garage, is set behind a generous lawn and framed with beautiful old trees. To the right of the driveway, a flagstone path crosses in front of the porch, with steps leading up to a solid wooden door in the middle of the house. To the right of the front door is a large picture window the width of the living room.

The house sits on a gently curving street that ends in a cul-de-sac. The surrounding houses are all equally attractive and well maintained, and relatively similar. People who live here are successful and settled; everyone's a little bit smug.

This quiet, prosperous suburb in upstate New York, populated with mostly professional couples and their families, seems oblivious to the problems of the small city that surrounds it, oblivious to the problems of the larger world, as if the American dream has continued to live on here, smooth and unruffled.

But the untroubled setting does not match Tom's current state of mind. He cuts the lights and the engine and sits uneasily for a moment in the dark, despising himself.

Then, with a start, he notices that his wife's car is not in its usual place in the driveway. He automatically checks his watch: 9:20. He wonders if he's forgotten something. Was she going out? He can't remember her mentioning anything, but he's been so busy lately. Maybe she just went out to run an errand and will be back any minute. She's left the lights on; they give the house a welcoming glow.

He gets out of the car into the summer night–it smells of freshly mown grass–swallowing his disappointment. He wanted, rather fervently, to see his wife. He stands for a moment, his hand on the roof of the car, and looks across the street. Then he grabs his briefcase and suit jacket from the passenger seat and tiredly closes the car door. He walks along the path, up the front steps, and opens the door. Something is wrong. He holds his breath.

Tom stands completely still in the doorway, his hand resting on the knob. At first he doesn't know what's bothering him. Then he realizes what it is. The door wasn't locked. That in itself isn't unusual-most nights he comes home and opens the door and walks right in, because most nights Karen's home, waiting for him. But she's gone out with her car and forgotten to lock the door. That's very odd for his wife, who's a stickler about locking the doors. He slowly lets out his breath. Maybe she was in a rush and forgot.

His eyes quickly take in the living room, a serene rectangle of pale gray and white. It's perfectly quiet; there's obviously no one home. She left the lights on, so she must not have gone out for long. Maybe she went to get some milk. There will probably be a note for him. He tosses his keys onto the small table by the front door and heads straight for the kitchen at the back of the house. He's starving. He wonders if she's already eaten or whether she's been waiting for him.

It's obvious that she's been preparing their supper. A salad is almost finished; she has stopped slicing mid-tomato. He looks at the wooden cutting board, at the tomato and the sharp knife lying beside it. There's pasta on the granite counter, ready to be cooked, a large pot of water on the stainless steel gas stove. The stove is off and the water in the pot is cold; he dips a finger in to check. He scans the refrigerator door for a note-there's nothing written on the whiteboard for him. He frowns. He pulls his cell phone out of his pants pocket and checks to see if there's any message from her that he might have missed. Nothing. Now he's mildly annoyed. She might have told him.

Tom opens the door to the refrigerator and stands there for a minute, staring sightlessly at its contents, then grabs an imported beer and decides to start the pasta. He's sure she'll be home any minute. He looks around curiously to see what they might have run out of. They have milk, bread, pasta sauce, wine, parmesan cheese. He checks the bathroom-there's plenty of toilet paper. He can't think of anything else that might be urgent. While he waits for the water to come to a boil, he calls her cell, but she doesn't pick up.

Fifteen minutes later, the pasta is ready, but there is no sign of his wife. Tom leaves the pasta in the strainer in the sink, turns off the burner under the pot of tomato sauce, and wanders restlessly into the living room, his hunger forgotten. He looks out the large picture window across the lawn to the street beyond. Where the hell is she? He's starting to get anxious now. He calls her cell again and hears a faint vibration coming from behind him. He whips his head toward the sound and sees her cell phone, vibrating against the back of the sofa. Shit. She forgot her phone. How can he reach her now?

He starts looking around the house for clues as to where she might have gone. Upstairs, in their bedroom, he's surprised to find her bag sitting on her bedside table. He opens it with clumsy fingers, faintly guilty about going through his wife's purse. It feels private. But this is an emergency. He dumps the contents onto the middle of their neatly made bed. Her wallet is there, her change purse, lipstick, pen, a tissue packet-it's all there. Not an errand then. Maybe she stepped out to help a friend? An emergency of some kind? Still, she would have taken her purse with her if she was driving the car. And wouldn't she have called him by now if she could? She could borrow someone else's phone. It's not like her to be thoughtless.

Tom sits on the edge of the bed, quietly unraveling. His heart is beating too fast. Something is wrong. He thinks that maybe he should call the police. He considers how that might go. My wife went out and I don't know where she is. She left without her phone and her purse. She forgot to lock the door. It's completely unlike her. They probably won't take him seriously if she's been gone such a short time. He hasn't seen any sign of a struggle. Nothing is out of place.

Suddenly he gets up off the bed and rapidly searches the entire house. But he finds nothing alarming–no phone knocked off the hook, no broken window, no smear of blood on the floor. Even so, he's breathing as anxiously as if he had.

He hesitates. Perhaps the police will think they've had an argument. It won't matter if he tells them there was no argument, if he tells them they almost never argue. That theirs is an almost perfect marriage.

Instead of calling the police, he runs back into the kitchen, where Karen keeps a list of phone numbers, and starts calling her friends.

-

Looking at the wreckage in front of him, Officer Kirton shakes his head in resignation. People and cars. He's seen things to make his stomach empty itself on the spot. It wasn't that bad this time.

There'd been no identification on the crash victim, a woman, probably early thirties. No purse, no wallet. But the vehicle registration and insurance had been in the glove compartment. The car is registered to a Karen Krupp, at 24 Dogwood Drive. She'll have some explaining to do. And some charges to face. For now, she's been taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital.

As far as he can figure, and according to witnesses, she was traveling like a bat out of hell. She ran a red light and smashed the red Honda Civic right into a pole. It's a miracle no one else was hurt.

She was probably high, Kirton thinks. They would get a tox screen on her.

He wonders if the car was stolen. Easy enough to find out.

Thing was, she didn't look like a car thief or a druggie. She looked like a housewife. As far as he could tell through all that blood.

-

Tom Krupp has called the people he knows Karen sees most often. If they don't know where she might be, then he isn't waiting any longer. He's calling the police.

His hand trembles as he picks up the phone again. He feels sick with fear.

A voice comes on the line, "911. Where's your emergency?"

As soon as he opens the door and sees the cop on his doorstep, his face serious, Tom knows something very bad has happened. He is filled with a nauseating dread.

"I'm Officer Fleming," the cop says, showing his badge. "May I come in?" he asks respectfully, in a low voice.

"You got here fast," Tom says. "I just called 911 a few minutes ago." He feels as if he might be going into shock.

"I'm not here because of a 911 call," the officer says.

Tom leads him into the living room and collapses onto the large white sofa as if his legs have given out, not looking at the officer's face. He wants to delay the moment of truth for as long as possible.

But that moment has come. He finds that he can hardly breathe.

"Put your head down," Officer Fleming says, and places his hand gently on Tom's shoulder.

Tom leans his head toward his lap, feeling like he's going to pass out. He fears that his world is coming to an end. After a moment he looks up. He has no idea what's coming next, but he knows it can't be good.

Editorial Reviews

#1 National Bestseller
A New York Times Bestseller
International Bestseller

"So many dizzying twists you'd better not drive after reading!" —Linwood Barclay, New York Times bestselling author of Parting Shot
"Shari Lapena poses the question: How well do you know your spouse? . . . Lapena keeps the well-developed twists churning, with each a surprise notch in this ever-evolving plot, and she continues this skillful storytelling until the stunning twist at the end." —Associated Press
"Smart, twisty and compulsive. Suspense and suspicion accumulate relentlessly, toying with your expectations and your emotions right up until the packs-a-punch ending. Don't miss it, and don’t expect to be able to put it down." —Gilly Macmillan, New York Times bestselling author of The Perfect Girl
"Great suspense and lots of twists." —Toronto Star

"A diverting page-turner." —Publishers Weekly
"Smart and suspenseful. . . . You'll never see the ending coming." —PureWow
"Lapena ups the stakes by narrating from the viewpoint of both husband and wife, as well as by chucking in a firecracker of a plot twist. . . . Her deliberately unemotional prose style enhances the creeping sense of dread throughout." —Metro (UK)

"A Stranger in the House will have you sleeping with the lights on for weeks." —Bustle

PRAISE FOR The Couple Next Door:

"Meticulously crafted and razor sharp. The Couple Next Door lingers long after you turn the final page." —Harlan Coben, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Fool Me Once

"The twists come as fast [as] you can turn the pages." —People
"Provocative and shocking. One crime, an entire neighborhood of suspects, secrets and lies. How well do we ever know those around us? The Couple Next Door will keep you glued to the pages in search of the answer. Even then, you’ll never guess the truth . . . until it's too late." —Lisa Gardner, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Find Her
"I read this novel at one sitting, absolutely riveted by the story line. The suspense was beautifully rendered and unrelenting!" —Sue Grafton, New York Timesbestselling author of X

"Real men read women writers–because of books like this. Trust me." —Lee Child, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Make Me

"Shari Lapena has written a stunning debut thriller. Turn on the night lights and lock all your doors and windows. The Couple Next Door grabs you with each twist and shocks you with every betrayal." —Linda Fairstein, New York Times bestselling author of Killer Look
"A twisty, utterly riveting tale that will send readers on a wild roller-coaster ride of emotions. Shocking revelations kept me turning the pages like a madwoman." —Tess Gerritsen, New York Times bestselling author of Playing with Fire

"Expertly paced and finely crafted, The Couple Next Door is a gripping thriller of the highest order. I couldn't put it down." —A. J. Banner, bestselling author of The Good Neighbor
"Gripped me from the very beginning to the very end!" —Becky Masterman, author of Rage Against the Dying
"Brilliant! This utterly riveting psychological thriller hurtles along at breakneck speed, never giving you the opportunity to catch your breath. Twisty, turny and unputdownable." —C. L. Taylor, bestselling  author of The Lie

"Exquisitely torturous tension." —NPR

"Where did that baby go! It's hard not to read to the end to find out, and the twists waiting there are gratifyingly clever." —USA Today

"The many never-saw-them-coming twists and questionable characters . . . will keep you on the edge of your seat. First-time novelist Lapena's writing is spare and tense, and it makes The Couple Next Door a compulsive read. The last line is absolutely a killer." —Good Housekeeping

"[A] well-sculpted domestic thriller. . . . Highly suspenseful. . . . Twists are subtly revealed with aplomb, taking the story to increasingly unpredictable levels." Associated Press

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