The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen (2018) is a bestselling domestic thriller that bears a strong resemblance to The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins. Once again we have a 30 something ex-wife named Vanessa who could not get pregnant, started drinking and is now divorced from her handsome ex-husband Richard who has taken up with Nellie, Vanessa's 20 something replacement. Vanessa has started following the happy couple determined to stop the marriage. Vanessa appears to be jealous, unbalanced and desparate to get Richard back.
But all is not as it seems and around page 150 of The Wife Between Us we are hit with a twist that is quite well done. The problem though is that after page 150 we still have 230 more pages to go and for me the book dragged. The authors after the twist spend the rest of the book focusing on Vanessa as she tells us about what went wrong with her marriage to Richard. As expected he is far from the prince she thought she was marrying. He's abusive and controlling. He spies on Vanessa and when she becomes aware of who he is she wants out but Richard is very wealthy with connections and has made it clear that no one walks out on him.
It can be dangerous to leave an abusive spouse since the abuser may come after you and so Vanessa comes up with a plan to make herself as undesirable as possible so that Richard will be the one who wants out. She lets her appearance go. She embarrasses him at company functions by pretending to be drunk. She notices that Richard has a beautiful young assistant and goes about trying to bring them together so that Richard will have even more incentive to leave. She fills a notebook with her interactions with Richard and the different ways he is trying to gaslight her and by the end of the novel I was wondering who is crazier, Richard or Vanessa. And of course Vanessa's plan works too well. Richard does leave her but now her replacement is in danger.
I think the domestic thriller genre has gone overboard these days with unreliable narrators and "twists, twists and more twists" as one reviewer described it. And The Wife Between Us ends with a final twist which in my opinion added nothing. That said, this novel did receive a starred review from Publisher's Weekly. But for me the domestic thriller, at least the books I've read, needs to get back to writing straightforward and plausible dramas which in the right hands will not need as many gimmicks to keep the reader hooked.
I agree with you on unreliable narrators and too many twists in thrillers nowadays. I read a book about twenty years ago with an unreliable narrator but it worked because I did not know going in about that situation. And it took a long while to determine who of several narrators was unreliable. Now that every other book uses that element, it is no longer interesting.ReplyDelete
That's a good point because years ago when the unreliable narrator wasn't showing up so frequently in books it was more of a suprise. Now they seem to be everywhere. Curious about 19th century unreliable narrators in novels.ReplyDelete
I know what you mean about a book having one too many twists in it. A friend of mine really loved this book, but I just couldn't make myself read it. Domestic thrillers aren't my favorite, and neither are unreliable narrators. Great review!ReplyDelete
Thanks Lark, I can't recommend The Wife Between Us. There is a good twist around page 150 but after that the book dragged for me and there was really no one to root for in this novel.Delete
Yeah I agree with you. I've mostly stopped reading these kinds of thrillers b/c they seem too gimmicky. I read one of these authors books back in 2020 ... called You Are Not Alone. It was similar. They get pretty crazy the plots and believability.ReplyDelete
Agree and many of them are advertised as The next Gone Girl, a very dark book that I read and did not like.Delete
I share your opinion and find many contemporary thrillers seem too full of gimmicks for my taste. That does not stop me from reading one once in a while.ReplyDelete
Hi James, agree one has to keep tabs on the domestic thriller/psychological thriller genre because there are some good books out there. But you have to be very selective.Delete