Someone We Know: A Novel

Image of Someone We Know: A Novel
Release Date: 
July 30, 2019
Pamela Dorman Books
Reviewed by: 

“Lapena uses craft, not gimmicks, to bring a deliberate rhythm of tension that keeps readers engrossed from beginning to end.”

This is a book about lies. Big lies, white lies, harmless lies, deceitful lies, half-truths, edited versions of the truth, and misunderstandings. Lies of omission, lies to mislead, lies to cast doubt, lies to protect loved ones, and to cover up other lies. This big gooey mess of lies grows until everyone in the Aylesford neighborhood is slimed with them.

You'll love it!

After the prologue, the story begins mildly enough. A teenage wannabe hacker, Rahleigh Sharpe, creeps into neighborhood houses when nobody is home to do some harmless snooping into desk drawers and personal computers. He does it for kicks. He doesn't steal anything, he doesn't destroy anything, he doesn't hurt anyone, he just peeks.


When his mother Olivia finds out, she takes his phone away and restricts his Internet usage to homework only. But when he refuses to apologize, her false sense of morality prompts her to send anonymous letters of apology to the homeowners he's prowled.

Proving once again that no good deed goes unpunished.

Turns out Rahleigh has prowled the house of a woman who has gone missing. Her husband Robert is distraught over Amanda's disappearance and files a missing person report with the police:

"'Friday morning, when she left for work . . . She was going to leave directly from the office to go away with a girlfriend for the weekend. She left work as planned, but she didn't come back home last night. Now it's Monday morning, and she's still not home.'"

Amanda and Robert are new to the neighborhood. She's younger than the other wives and gorgeous. They all think she's run off with another man. Here they discuss what happened at a recent neighborhood party:

"Amanda Pierce was a striking woman, and all the husbands had watched her, practically drooling, stumbling over one another to hand her things—ketchup for her hot dog, a napkin, a drink . . . She looked like a model, or an actress—she was that perfect. That sexy. That confident. Always wearing smart clothes and fashionable sun glasses. . . .

". . . young and beautiful and had never had children, so her legs were perfect, like the rest of her. Glenda remembers how she kept leaning forward, casually showing off a bit of perky breast and lacy bra every time she spoke to Keith, or Paul, or Larry, or any of the other men . . ."

When Amanda's body turns up in the lake, the shocking plot twists and surprises come fast and furious one after the other, page by riveting page.

Police investigators question neighbors, and neighbors question each other. Fingers point, assumptions take form, rumors bloom, and suspicion hovers over the street like a beach fog. Nervous neighbors wipe their computers clean, hide or toss their burner phones. Stomachs twist with steadily building tension as their alarming secrets are revealed.

Carmine receives one of the unsigned apology letters and is determined to find out who wrote it. She makes it her business to walk the neighborhood and show it around. When she reaches Rahleigh's house, his mother answers the door:

"Olivia is working in the upstairs office that afternoon when she hears the doorbell ring. She wonders if it's the detectives broadening their enquiries. She hastens down the stairs to the front door. But it isn't the two detectives standing there; it's a woman she's never seen before. . . .

"(The woman) holds up the letter. The letter that Olivia wrote and printed and stuck through this woman's mail slot. Has she figured it out? Does she know it was Raleigh? Is they why she's really here? To confront her? . . ."

Carmine's efforts eventually pay off. By asking questions and exchanging gossip, she learns just enough to suspect where the letter came from. As a ruse, she contacts Rahleigh and hires him to fix her laptop. They agree to meet at a coffee shop.

This is a storyteller's story, a straightforward, fast moving tale of psychological suspense. This happened, that happened, then this happened next. No flowery language, no wasted words, no going off track or wandering on tangents. Shari Lapena, to great effect, has kept descriptions to a minimum so as not to distract the reader or interrupt the flow of the story. She is relentless in building tension with short chapters and concise scenes.

Someone We Know is skillfully plotted and unyielding in its step by step presentation. Lapena uses craft, not gimmicks, to bring a deliberate rhythm of tension that keeps readers engrossed from beginning to end.

And, speaking of the end, there is a surprise on the very last page, but don't ruin it for yourself by peeking.