Book pairing: “The Couple Next Door” by Shari Lapena & seven-layer dip
I will preface this review with a declaration: I am not an avid reader of mysteries, thrillers, or other suspense novels. My genres of choice tend to be World War II historical fiction and Asian American and world literature. But there is something about the chill in the crisp autumn air that makes me want to curl up with a slightly spooky book as the wind blows and the leaves fall, and The Couple Next Door, the debut suspense novel from author Shari Lapena is that book.
Anne and Marco Conti live in upstate New York, where Marco runs a software development company. The Contis accept an invitation from their neighbors to a dinner party, leaving their infant daughter Cora asleep at home after their babysitter cancels at the last minute. Armed with a baby monitor and a plan to take turns checking in on the baby every half hour, the two head next door. When they return home, the Contis find the door slightly ajar and Cora gone from her crib.
Soon after, Detective Rasbach arrives on the scene to lead the investigation. As the case unfolds throughout the rest of the novel, one secret after another comes to the fore, from hidden financial troubles to a postpartum depression diagnosis, and slowly chips away at the polished exterior of white suburbia.
The Couple Next Door was not my favorite read — the characters were underdeveloped, some of the plot devices too predictable, and the end a bit too overdone and melodramatic — but it was gripping and suspenseful and had all the ingredients to keep me engaged long enough to finish it in one sitting. Even when it seemed like the mystery of the disappearance had been solved, or at least partially unearthed, LaPeña threw in some twists and turns that made this a page-turner until the very end.
This layered dip is the perfect complement to The Couple Next Door, a novel replete with layers in its own right. And just as the novel is an easy weekend read, so too is this dip a simple recipe to fix up. Pair it with some tortilla chips and enjoy.
- one 16-oz can refried beans
- Tabasco sauce, to taste
- one 4.5-oz can diced green chilies
- Ground cumin, 1/4 teaspoon or to taste
- 3/4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- one cup sour cream
- 3/4 cups Monterey jack cheese
- one 2.25-oz can sliced black olives, roughly chopped
- one cup pico de gallo (see recipe here)
- one jalapeño, sliced and seeds removed (optional)
Heat refried beans in a small pan over medium-low heat. Add Tabasco sauce to taste. Fold in the diced green chilies and add the ground cumin.
Spread the beans across the bottom of a dish. Then add the sharp cheddar cheese. Next, add the sour cream, and carefully spread it over the cheese in a single layer. Then, sprinkle on the Monterey Jack cheese and the black olives.
Finish off with a generous heaping of pico de gallo (either store bought or homemade) and top with some sliced jalapeños.
Recipe via The Pioneer Woman