book reviews

‘My Lovely Wife’ by Samantha Downing ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Introducing the next generation of domestic thriller.

Every marriage has secrets. Everyone has flaws. Your wife isn’t perfect – you know that – but then again nor are you.

But now a serial killer is on the loose in your small town, preying on young women. Fear is driving your well-behaved young daughter off the rails, and you find yourself in bed late at night, looking at the woman who lies asleep beside you.

Because you thought you knew the worst about her. The truth is you know nothing at all.

Thank you to NetGalley, Penguin UK and Samantha Downing for the chance to read and review this book.

What can I say about this book? Well the first words that come to mind are: consuming, riveting, astounding, mesmerising, dark, twisted and unforgettable It lives up to the claim that it is “the next generation of domestic thriller” and is a fresh take on the genre that sets it apart from other thrillers and serial killer books.

“Life goes along like it’s supposed to, an occasional bump in the road but otherwise a fairly smooth ride.”

The story is narrated by Tobias, he’s married to Millicent and they live with their two children, Rory, 14, and 13-year-old Jenna. To everyone they appear to be just another affluent family: they have a happy marriage, a nice house, their children are well behaved and doing well at their private school and they socialise at the Country Club. But underneath this shiny veneer lurks a dark and disturbing secret.

From the beginning we know he keeps things from his wife he knows he should share, and it isn’t long before we find out she’s been keeping an even bigger secret from him. He immediately starts to wonder if she’s hiding anything more, a question that troubles him throughout the book, but ultimately he decides he trusts her.

“You didn’t think we were going to stop did you?”

This book is unusual  as it is told solely from the perpetrator’s perspective. I loved this choice as instead of trying to figure out the culprit the reader is instead left to ponder other questions about the crimes, the motive and if the carefully stacked house of cards will come toppling down around him. The first sign that this might happen is when what seems to have been the perfect smoke screen results in their daughter living in fear of her life, becoming obsessed with the news, resorting to violence and even carrying a weapon for protection. The realisation that they’ve damaged their child while protecting themselves horrifies Tobias and results in a shift of his priorities. Suddenly their hidden life isn’t so alluring and all that matters is helping his daughter become herself again. A decision that leads to his whole world unravelling and puts them all at risk.

“I always wanted to be more than above average”

A key aspect of this story is the relationship between the couple. Tobias grew up with wealthy parents who were uninterested in him and felt rejected. He started playing tennis to try and win their affection and attention without success and left home as soon as possible. From the moment he met Millicent he was captivated by her and she has always made him feel more than average. It is this that explains why he allows her to control many aspects of their family and their lives, and why he will do anything to make her happy, something Millicent clearly takes advantage of and uses to manipulate him. Their relationship also revolves around their secrets. They have their own version of date nights and secret code. Another reason Tobias enjoys their clandestine activities and brushes aside his concerns is because of how it affects their sex life. Even a simple discussion about it results in them becoming sexually charged and have wild, passionate sex, which increases the allure for him.

“Piece by piece my life is destroyed, like it was never real at all.”

As Tobias finally realises the depth of Millicent’s betrayal he struggles to comprehend how she could be so callous and cold. She isn’t the woman he thought she was. You can almost hear his heart and soul shatter  as he realises everything he thought he knew, everything he holds dear, is a facade. The book is expertly plotted and that pivotal moment when the truth dawns on Tobias occurred just minutes after it dawned on me and you are never quite sure where the story is going. At least not until the author wants you to and delivers a breathtaking twist that leaves you reeling. As the walls cave in around Tobias and time is running out the book speeds towards a spectacular, shocking and catastrophic conclusion.

It’s strange to say this about a killer but I loved Millicent’s character. She’s intelligent, manipulative, beguiling, calculating and at times a contradiction. She is unapologetic of her plans and actions while Tobias sometimes wavers. It was interesting to have a dynamic where the woman is the one pulling the strings and the man afraid of displeasing her instead of her being the victim cowering in the corner.

This jaw-dropping thriller is a book you don’t want to miss. It had me transfixed within the first two chapters and didn’t let go. The final line sent shivers down my spine and still haunts me. A debut that reads like the work of a veteran writer makes this author a talent to watch. I for one can’t wait to see what she writes next.

Out May 2nd

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s