Flawed leads are becoming increasingly common in fiction. I know some readers still struggle to read books featuring main characters who are less-than-likeable. The occasional quirk is usually okay, or even some arrogance or a tinge of psychopathy but it’s still often harder for many to engage and identify with a character who we might not like.
Bethany Reston might be such a character for some because she tells us outright that she’s having an affair. Indeed it’s on the backcover blurb. So we know that from the start.
The Guilty Wife
by Elle Croft
Published by Orion
on January 25th 2018
Source: Hachette Australia
ISBN: 1409175421, 9781409175414
I'm not guilty of murder.
Bethany Reston is happily married. But she's also having an affair with a famous client.
And no one can ever know.
But that doesn't make me innocent.
When Bethany's lover is brutally murdered, she has to hide her grief from everyone.
But someone knows her secret. And then one day the threats begin.
With an ever-growing pile of evidence pointing to her as the murderer, the only way she can protect her secrets is to prove her innocence.
And that means tracking down a killer.
I did guess ‘whodunnit’ in this case, though there’s a slightly weird twist at the end – and I might talk more about my thoughts on this in Goodreads for those who’ve read the book! The ending was probably just slightly disappointing as a result of its obviousness… which I think is ultimately because Croft backs herself into a bit of a corner with limited (potential) suspects.
Having said that, I think it’s less about the eventual ‘who’ and more about Bethany’s journey.
I checked Goodreads after reading this (something I don’t usually do lest my impression be tainted) but was keen to see if anyone else had mentioned the ending. I noted someone gave the book a low score because they disliked Bethany to the extent they really didn’t care what happened to her.
I wasn’t as judge-y about the fact she’d had an affair with a client while married. I mostly identified with her (initially), which was interesting. She was honest with us – telling us she loved both her husband Jason AND her lover Calum. She knew what she was doing was wrong and questioned how she could treat Jason so poorly when he was really a great husband. On the other hand she was aghast when Calum called her out on her duplicity.
It occurred to me that her reaction is actually quite typical. It’s one thing for us to recognise our behaviour or think something about ourselves or loved ones, but another thing entirely when someone else does it. And I think that will probably ‘grate’ a little for some readers as there’s some glimmer of privilege or conceit mixed with defensiveness in Bethany’s behaviour, thinking and attitude.
I was quite zen about that but her naivety about her options as the novel draws to a close became kinda annoying. She’s obviously in denial about her situation but – for a while anyway – gives we readers pause to ponder whether she’s perhaps a little…. um… ‘thick’ or ‘slow’ – to use a technical term.
I was happier though at the slight change we ultimately see in her. A sense of acceptance or resolution perhaps?
This is Croft’s debut novel and I think it’s a great read. I read it in a day and was keen to know whodunnit. I think the very end adds a level of confusion which took the shine off a little but that could also be me overthinking things!
The Guilty Wife by Elle Croft will be published in Australia by Hachette on 28 November 2017, and in paperback in January 2018.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.