The First Wife
Macmillan St. Martin’s (US: 10th February 2015); Hachette Little, Brown Sphere (UK & AU: 10th February 2015)
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I’ve only managed to stay up-to-date with a few crime authors, and Erica Spindler is one of them. Her books are mostly standalones (though some have the odd recurring character), so readers can jump in any time, without having to catch up.
The First Wife is another gem. It may be marketed as mystery/suspense/thriller, but it feels Gothic: a fish out of water learns that her new husband and his family have a LOT of secrets. The author’s no stranger to Gothics (check out her novel Fortune), and she again does it well here.
However, usually the author’s heroines have more back-story, so except for the fact that Bailey’s only family member was her mother, she comes without baggage. And it’s in her grief-stricken and distraught state that she meets Logan Abbott, extends her holiday…and they marry not long after.
Logan’s ten years older, and he’s been married before. It definitely feels like he rushes Bailey into marriage, and with her mother dead she’s not really leaving anyone or anything behind when she moves interstate. So she’s rather alone when she first arrives at Abbott Farm, but makes friends with the staff easily.
Logan, meanwhile, is bloody annoying. He’s the king of emotional manipulation, shutting down and playing the victim when Bailey tries to get him to open up about his past – namely all the things she should’ve found out BEFORE they were married, but she’s vulnerable with grief when they first meet, and Logan pounces on that.
He knows when Bailey’s been using his laptop, so he takes it away from the house every day. Whenever Bailey asks questions, he’s all “now you’re against me, too,” when she wouldn’t even HAVE questions had Logan been more honest and upfront from the start. His reasons for keeping secrets are the usual bollocks of “I’m trying to protect you” and “I didn’t want to upset you.” WE ARE NOT AMUSED.
But it’s okay – we’re SUPPOSED to think Logan’s shifty; we’re meant to suspect him of serial killing. That’s the story’s premise: Did Logan kill his first wife, and what about these other missing women from the area?
As a result of traumatic brain injury (via a physical blow – or is it psychological?), Bailey has retrograde amnesia. The author deals with it well: Bailey has several headaches, particularly when she tries to remember, and her memory doesn’t return all at once – just little clues along the way.
But really the drawcard here is the messed-up family and their MANY secrets. Also, the side characters are great for some snide comments – Raine and August are particularly fabulous during the wonderful soap opera-style dinner.
Even though I peeked at the last page, there were still plenty of surprises in store. I’ve always enjoyed Erica Spindler’s thrillers, and she’s in even better form with this Gothic suspense. The First Wife is totally binge-read-worthy, and goes down a treat. Now eagerly waiting whatever the author has in store next.