Book Review: The Serial Killer's Wife by Alice Hunter
I think it’s inevitable that any book featuring the wife of a serial killer will get compared to the Stillhouse Lake series by (the sadly departed) Rachel Caine. The premise of this one seems very much the same: Beth’s husband Tom is arrested and accused of murdering Katie, his girlfriend before he met and married Beth. Katie has supposedly been away travelling for years, but new evidence has come to light and the police are looking at her disappearance as a murder. Tom proclaims his innocence, but Beth has her doubts… and slowly, throughout the book, small hints are revealed that maybe Beth has known more than she was saying all along, but has kept quiet out of fear, for herself and her daughter Poppy’s sake.
Honestly, Tom barely qualifies as a serial killer. Three victims over the space of fourteen years, one of them accidental? We get enough insight into his psyche from the sections in his point of view to tell us he’s a sociopath with no care for the feelings of anyone but himself, and a particular disregard for women. Good-looking and charming, he’s an expert at drawing women into his web, whereupon he sets about controlling them by cutting them off from their support network and making them entirely dependent on him.
The first half of the book is very, very slow. It does speed up in the second half, and there are a couple of intriguing twists towards the end - they’re telegraphed well enough I guessed it was coming, but the how and why of it was interesting.
What was missing here, and done so brilliantly in the Stillhouse Lake series, was the realities faced by families of serial killers in the modern age. Almost everything Beth experienced is something that could have happened fifty years ago. There were no harassing phone calls, emails, no evisceration by social media. The reality is that other parents would have been pulling their kids out of the kindergarten, demanding ‘the killer’s kid’ was excluded before they would return. People would have been boycotting Beth’s cafe, or graffitiing the walls in the night with crude insults. I also really didn’t buy Adam’s reaction after Beth admitted she wasn’t totally ignorant of Tom’s past. No way would he have just accepted that; nobody would.
Overall it’s well written, if slow in the first half, but there’s just too much I didn’t quite buy into. I’ll give it three stars.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley.