Title: The Couple Next Door
Author: Rick R. Reed
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 200 Pages
At a Glance: The Couple Next door is a tension filled and fact paced psychological thriller.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: With the couple next door, nothing is as it seems.
Jeremy Booth leads a simple life, scraping by in the gay neighborhood of Seattle, never letting his lack of material things get him down. But the one thing he really wants—someone to love—seems elusive. Until the couple next door moves in and Jeremy sees the man of his dreams, Shane McCallister, pushed down the stairs by a brute named Cole.
Jeremy would never go after another man’s boyfriend, so he reaches out to Shane in friendship while suppressing his feelings of attraction. But the feeling of something being off only begins with Cole being a hard-fisted bully—it ends with him seeming to be different people at different times. Some days, Cole is the mild-mannered John and then, one night in a bar, he’s the sassy and vivacious drag queen Vera.
So how can Jeremy rescue the man of his dreams from a situation that seems to get crazier and more dangerous by the day? By getting close to the couple next door, Jeremy not only puts a potential love in jeopardy, but eventually his very life.
Review: “With the couple next door, nothing is as it seems.”
I don’t believe there has been a truer opening line to a book description ever written. That single sentence is the catalyst for all the fear and danger Jeremy Booth experiences from one single defining moment on in this tautly written and suspenseful psychological thriller from Rick R. Reed.
This author has a knack for throwing twists and turns into his storylines—some subtle, some that come at you in gasps and surprises—and there are some real doozies in The Couple Next Door. When Jeremy’s first encounter with his new neighbors, Shane and Cole, comes at the expense of Shane’s wellbeing and Jeremy’s own sense of self-preservation, it’s immediately evident the sort of man Jeremy is—caring, compassionate, selfless to the point of heroic…or naïve…maybe a bit of both—which, of course, endears him to us with little effort. It’s Jeremy’s sweet and gentle nature, an inherent kindness that comes so naturally to him, that not only makes him a wonderful character but also makes him so vulnerable to the events that will unfold in this novel.
As Cole becomes John becomes Vera becomes John becomes Cole, we’re left guessing from scene to scene whom we’ll meet—the brutal Cole, the amiable John, the playful Vera? All sorts of red flags are thrown up along the way, warnings that Jeremy should heed to save himself from whatever insanity surrounds Shane, but Jeremy himself knows firsthand what an abusive relationship looks like, what sorts of mind games and rationalizations both the abuser and the abused participate in, so it’s Jeremy’s own savior complex that keeps him close to Shane, watchful for and alert to the danger that surrounds him. It’s what makes this story such a twisted and suspenseful read—there are times when we see Jeremy as the savior, but we also see him as a captive himself of Cole and Shane’s unhealthy connection to each other. Honestly, The Couple Next Door works as well as a character study as it does a thriller because Jeremy’s decisions and actions throughout the story cause us to question and analyze his every move—whether to criticize or justify or empathize with his choices.
Written in the present tense, the narrative is delivered in a real-time way that places the reader directly into every scene along with the characters. The rising action finally culminates in a tension-filled, make-or-break, do-or-die moment that kept me turning pages to the very end, an end that offers a lovely payoff for all the anxiety inducing moments along the way.
The Couple Next Door is a great read when you’re looking for a good old fashioned nail biter.
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