In upstate New York, Stephanie and Patrick are adjusting to life with their colicky twin babies. The girls are a handful, but Stephanie doesn’t mind being a stay-at-home mom, taking care of them while Patrick does the nine to five to pay the bills.
When a woman from Patrick’s past drops in on them unexpectedly, raising questions about his late first wife, Stephanie supports her husband wholeheartedly. She knows the car accident all those many years ago was just that–an accident. But Erica is persistent, and now she’s threatening to go to the police.
Patrick is afraid his job–and his reputation–will be at risk if he doesn’t put an end to Erica’s questioning immediately. And when the police start digging, Stephanie’s trust in her husband begins to falter and Patrick is primed to lose everything he loves. As their marriage crumbles, Stephanie feels herself coming unglued, and soon she isn’t sure what–or who–to believe. Now the most important thing is to protect her girls, but at what cost?
Shari Lapena’s new thriller focuses on an old, timeless, and unfailingly relevant question. Is it possible to really know the person you marry? or might they have different sides (faces): caring and tender because they love and adore you and your children, calculating and selfish, or even worse, once you start doubting their intentions….
Stephanie and Patrick are extremely exhausted. People always underestimate how hard it is to cope with a new born baby, let alone twins. Add a never-ending colic and endless crying, and you get barely functioning sleep deprived parents who are losing their mind. They don’t know what is causing the colic or when it will stop or whether the industrial quantities of coffee they are consuming are helping or just making them even more tired. Patrick is a successful architect, but he’s been unable to focus and give his full attention to his clients’ projects, so, understandably, his work is suffering. Stephanie’s social life is non-existent, she lost all contact with her colleagues and acquantainces after her maternity leave, apart from seeing their neighbour Hanna who has a baby of her own. It is Hanna who notices a young woman checking out properties in the area and looking curiously at Stephanie and Patrick’s house. She is young and pretty, but something is off about her. Then the same woman appears in Patrick’s office and interviews for a vacancy there.
And just like this Patrick’s former lover Erica Voss is back in his life. Incidentally, she is also Patrick’s first wife’s best friend. Now Erica wants money in exchange for her silence about what happened to Lindsey. Patrick always maintained it was a tragic car accident, although Stephanie never knew the details. As he refuses to pay Erica, it is time to come clean and talk about his past with his unsuspecting second wife, who also happens to be quite rich.
There are two other couples who also feature in Erica’s opportunistic schemes: Patrick’s partner and his wife, and the couple who adopted Erica’s child nine years ago and have been lovingly raising him. Erica is manipulative, greedy and ruthless. Still, is there a chance that she might be telling the truth and some people just set themselves to get used by somebody who is confident, observant, smart about human nature and motivations, and totally devoid of scruples?
What I like about Shari Lapena’s novels is that they have a limited number of characters, but every single of them is shown to have their own agenda, motive and opportunity. She just keeps you guessing until the last chapter and sometimes even until the last paragraph. Nobody is entirely innocent (apart from the babies, colic isn’t a crime, whatever the effects of prolonged sleep deprivation on their long-suffering parents might be), so there is a sense of urgency to solve the mystery before another disaster strikes or another crime is committed. We don’t really get the background story or an explanation why the villains behave the way they do, although we do get a glimpse into what was really happening and their cold detached feelings.
If you are a fan of domestic thrillers, this is a book for you. It is quick, tense, and dark. A perfect marriage turns into a crime scene, a friend turns into somebody who is only watching out for themselves, ordinary family life turns into a series of narrow escapes (did she leave that frying pan on fire or did she not?), even a much beloved childhood story takes on a very sinister meaning.
Shari Lapena is my auto-buy author and I know I can rely on her to write a compelling story with a complex plot. She knows how to tap into very common fears, exaggerate and turn them into a real page-turner. Her endings are spectacular and his one is just a point in case. It is quiet, almost too quiet after all the tension and relentless pace, but it does leave you with surprise and a new set of questions to ask.
Recommended? of course! It’s Shari Lapena.
Thank you to Edelweiss and Pamela Dorman Books for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.