REVIEW: THE WIFE, BY ALAFAIR BURKE

 

When Angela met Jason Powell while catering a dinner party in East Hampton, she assumed their romance would be a short-lived fling, like so many relationships between locals and summer visitors. To her surprise, Jason, a brilliant economics professor at NYU, had other plans, and they married the following summer. For Angela, the marriage turned out to be a chance to reboot her life. She and her son were finally able to move out of her mother’s home to Manhattan, where no one knew about her tragic past.

Six years later, thanks to a bestselling book and a growing media career, Jason has become a cultural lightning rod, placing Angela near the spotlight she worked so carefully to avoid. When a college intern makes an accusation against Jason, and another woman, Kerry Lynch, comes forward with an even more troubling allegation, their perfect life begins to unravel. Jason insists he is innocent, and Angela believes him. But when Kerry disappears, Angela is forced to take a closer look—at both the man she married and the women she chose not to believe.

My Thoughts: Angela’s loyalty to Jason, despite the growing evidence against him, fits perfectly with what we know about her background. How could her judgment be anything but impaired after what she has been through?

But what we learned about the supposed victims gave me pause, too.

Throughout The Wife, I kept going back and forth on what I believed to be true. And then I was floored by the additional information that came forth as the novel progressed.

Alternately narrated in the first person voice of Angela, followed by the third person narrative of the detective Corrine Duncan, I was completely fascinated and eager to keep guessing.

What did we really know about Angela and her time in the past? Could she have a dark side from that experience, and would she completely surprise us about how she would react to what is happening in the present? Some stunning revelations turn the story upside down…but definitely kept me turning the pages. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL, BY SARAH VAUGHAN

 

An astonishingly incisive and suspenseful novel about a scandal amongst Britain’s privileged elite and the women caught up in its wake.

Sophie’s husband James is a loving father, a handsome man, a charismatic and successful public figure. And yet he stands accused of a terrible crime. Sophie is convinced he is innocent and desperate to protect her precious family from the lies that threaten to rip them apart.

Kate is the lawyer hired to prosecute the case: an experienced professional who knows that the law is all about winning the argument. And yet Kate seeks the truth at all times. She is certain James is guilty and is determined he will pay for his crimes.

Who is right about James? Sophie or Kate? And is either of them informed by anything more than instinct and personal experience? Despite her privileged upbringing, Sophie is well aware that her beautiful life is not inviolable. She has known it since she and James were first lovers, at Oxford, and she witnessed how easily pleasure could tip into tragedy.

My Thoughts: Eager to read this story that could have been grabbed from today’s headlines, I began Anatomy of a Scandal with some idea of what would unfold.

Our alternating narrators take us from the present to the past, to a time when youth and bad choices set the tone for what would come next in the lives of these elite characters.

Setting in the past: Oxford University, with entitled students, mixed in with a handful of scholarship recipients. 1993 was a year that stood out for a number of reasons, and those secrets will stay in the past until something that happens in the present yanks them forward.

Did James rape his colleague? Or was it a misunderstanding between two lovers? What long term pattern of being “flexible” with the truth might be relevant in the present? What will Sophie realize about her husband, and how long will she stay loyal?

What, if anything, is the past connection between Kate Woodcroft, the barrister in James’s case, and James and Sophie? How will Kate handle the delicacy of her situation? What will Sophie finally acknowledge? How does the longstanding friendship between James and Tom, his boss, inform the dynamics in the present?

Issues of consent are basic to the case before the Court and to this story…while the existence of secrets, lies, and a feeling of being untouchable will ultimately change the course of all their lives, since nothing stays buried forever. 5 stars.


***I received this e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: HE SAID, SHE SAID, BY ERIN KELLY

In the summer of 1999, Kit and Laura travel to a festival in Cornwall to see a total eclipse of the sun. Kit is an eclipse chaser; Laura has never seen one before. Young and in love, they are certain this will be the first of many they’ll share.

But in the hushed moments after the shadow passes, Laura interrupts a man and a woman. She knows that she saw something terrible. The man denies it. It is her word against his.

The victim seems grateful. Months later, she turns up on their doorstep like a lonely stray. But as her gratitude takes a twisted turn, Laura begins to wonder—did she trust the wrong person?

15 years later, Kit and Laura are married and living under new names and completely off the digital grid: no Facebook, only rudimentary cell phones, not in any directories. But as the truth catches up to them, they realize they can no longer keep the past in the past.


My Thoughts: Alternating narrators that take us back and forth in time reveal the buried secrets and lies of He Said/She Said. Kit and Laura have lived in various parts of England, have followed many eclipses over the years, and at the present time, Laura is expecting twins.

Kit and Laura were caught up in the eclipse at Lizard Point, Cornwall; it was their first together, but what happened to Beth, a stranger, during the festival will change their lives forever. A series of disasters in the aftermath of a trial would lead to years that Kit and Laura lived off the grid, afraid to be photographed or shown on social media. Who and what was behind their fear? Were they each equally frightened, or was there more to the story?

Just when I thought that I truly understood what was happening with each of the primary characters—Laura, Kit, and Beth—a new revelation would come forth, changing how I viewed that character.

Danger came at them from every corner, but the source of it was just another secret well-hidden until the final pages. Who would be the biggest liar of all, and how would the darkest secrets ultimately derail their lives? 5 stars.


***My e-ARC came from the publishers via NetGalley.

REVIEW: THE GIRL YOU LOST, BY KATHRYN CROFT

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In the opening pages of The Girl You Lost, we meet a character who has been victimized, and as we learn more about her, we are immediately curious as to her connection to a group of unknown narrators whose alternate passages draw us into the sick and nefarious world of a group of young men.

Meanwhile, Simone and Matt Porter are still grieving the loss of their infant daughter eighteen years before. Little Helena, age six months, was grabbed from her grandmother in the park.

Suddenly we are watching as a young woman named Grace Rhodes approaches Simone with a story that seems unbelievable…and incredible, at best. She is the young woman victimized in the beginning and she has a story to tell. Can she be believed? Could Grace be the missing child Helena? But just as Simone is pondering the story, Grace disappears. Did she give up when she realized that her lies had been uncovered? Or is there more going on?

Intense and thrilling, we are left wondering who the young men are and what, if anything, they have done to Grace and others.

In the end, while I was not completely surprised by the connections between the characters, the behavior of one in particular stunned me.

Set in London, the story kept me intrigued, even as I had a sick feeling of dread about what would ultimately be revealed.

Rating:  ratings worms 4-cropped

***