This is a domestic thriller with a difference, far more subtle than the normal fayre and dare I say it, with a less simplistic message than some.
The book opens on 20 October 2015 with an excerpt from The Telegraph announcing the death of a famous artist, he’d been stabbed. We then move straight back in time to the turn of the millennium in the year 2000 and meet Lily who is a solicitor facing her first day assisting the defence in a criminal case. The subject is Joe Thomas an incarcerated man accused of murdering his girlfriend. It is also Lily’s first day back at home in her Clapham flat as a married woman, she has married an aspiring artist, Ed, who works in advertising to pay the bills.
Next we meet Carla who is a child of nine who lives downstairs from Lily and Ed with her Italian mother Francesca. Carla’s father died when she was a baby and she longs for the things the other girls at school have but most of all she longs not to be different. While Francesca works Carla is looked after by Lily and becomes a subject for Ed to draw and paint.
The first half of the book follows these flawed five characters throughout the time that Lily is building her case to free Joe Thomas. The hours are long and her marriage to Ed less than perfect. We know that Lily misses her dead brother Daniel, and that she feels guilty about something that happened before she married, but whatever caused the guilt, Lily is not telling anyone. But there is no doubt that she sees something of Daniel in her client Joe. The author also paints a worrying picture of a young girl who learns to lie to and manipulate those around her to ease her unhappiness.
One of the most brilliant things in the book is precisely that all the characters are a mixture of good and bad. Does being good in one area of your life redeem yourself for those times that you behaved less well? This theme runs into the second half too when we meet Carla in 2013 as an adult, a beautiful young woman who is determined not to end up like her mother, alone and unhappy. She decides to seek out some old friends and so enters Lily’s life once more.
Along with the complex and enthralling characters we have other reoccurring issues including Asperger’s syndrome, fidelity, deception and lies and we all know one small lie can easily multiply to become something huge!
The chapters alternate between Lily and Carla which kept me reading long after I should have put the book to one side, as they revealed not only parts of their own characters but also of those around them. This isn’t a fast paced book, the author covers a lot of ground and the depth of the story being told becomes apparent as the layers are peeled back on the characters. Using her writing, rather than a jaw-dropping twist, the feeling of dread increases quite alarmingly once the second half of the book begins. After all we now know something of what each of the characters we’ve met are capable of, but how does that link to the tantalising opening headline? If you want to know, you really should read My Husband’s Wife which is published today, 26 May 2016.
I’d like to offer a huge thank you to Penguin UK who gave me an advance copy of this book for review purposes. This review is my unbiased thanks to them.