The Serial Killer’s Wife

If you want suspense, don’t mention serial killer in the title then expect it to be a surprise when a second murder happens.

Book title

The Serial Killer’s Wife

Author

Alice Hunter

Standalone or series

Standalone

First time reading this author?

Yes

Why I picked this

I liked the title and the description. The idea of a story about the wife of a serial killer was interesting. Did she know? Everyone assumes she must have known, but what if she didn’t?

Review copy or purchase

Review copy via publisher Avon Books and NetGalley UK in exchange for an honest review.

What it’s about

Beth’s life seems perfect, until the police turn up on the doorstep and arrest her husband for murder. What will the rest of the village think of her?

Review

Beth’s life is almost perfect. She adores her husband Tom and daughter Poppy and their life in a large village. She runs a ceramics café and is thinking of re-starting a book club which used to be run by a resident who sadly died from an allergy attack. She hopes the book club will give her a way of getting in with the group of local mums that she feels excluded from as a newcomer to the village.

It all changes when Tom is uncharacteristically late home from work one evening, and moments after he does arrive the police take him in for questioning about the disappearance of his ex-girlfriend eight years previously. What will the village mums think now?

The title of this book is a huge draw, but it’s also a big problem. I found it really distracting. Tom is arrested really early into the book, and it’s clear that while no body has been discovered the police are convinced he murdered his ex-girlfriend Katie. So, yes we see how being the wife of a suspected murderer impacts on Beth, but one suspected murder does not a serial killer make, and it is not until 60% of the way through the book that there’s even the first hint that there might be another victim in the mix. That’s 60% of the book where I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.

If the title had been something different there might have been a sense of tension to this. Are there more victims? How will the discovery of more victims impact on the balance of support vs suspicion with which the locals are treating Beth? Instead it was just a source of frustration and increasingly annoyance as I passed the halfway mark with Tom still protesting his innocence and no mention of anything which might back up the title. After finally establishing a second suspected victim at 60% into the story it takes us until 75% of the book until there’s a third to qualify as the three victims to make a serial killer definition. And, this is all through flashback not clues or reveals. Tom’s in prison from pretty much the start of the book, so there are no new cases, just the discovery of previous ones.

Most of the story is from Beth’s perspective and it’s clear early on that she’s somewhat of an unreliable narrator, focussed more on appearances than the truth. Occasionally we see Tom’s perspective and that of the victims. Tom’s another unreliable narrator, but I don’t think we’re ever expected to believe him. All his sections do is confirm that this isn’t a question of proving innocence, but rather of whether he’ll get away with it. He’s thoroughly unlikeable, not even charismatic enough to be capable of drawing people in.

I think despite the title this isn’t really intended to be a thriller. It’s quite slowly paced and there’s no real sense of threat. It’s more about the impact on Beth’s efforts to live her life and whether she’ll now make friends with the chief local mum or act on the spark between her and the recently widowed young dad who wants to protect her.

I would have preferred this story from the perspective of a detective. Someone who has to discover Beth’s real motivations and who could truly show the different factors which portray Beth as either a lucky survivor who hadn’t yet fatally triggered the ire of the serial killer she married, or someone who knew some, or all, of what her husband was really like and was protecting him to protect the life she and her daughter had. That would have been a more interesting and more tension-filled thriller I think.

Rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.
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