Book review: The Last Wife by Karen Hamilton

Friday, July 3, 2020 Permalink

The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton, released in 2018, came as a bit of surprise and I enjoyed it far more than I expected. I comment in that review that it offered something a bit new. Something fresh.

Hamilton’s new novel, The Last Wife is similarly twisty. Again she gives us an unreliable narrator (who we grow to like, or at least understand), a support cast who have their own secrets and adds in a few twists when we think we’re on the home stretch.

Book review: The Last Wife by Karen HamiltonThe Last Wife
by Karen Hamilton
Published by Wildfire
on 25/06/2020
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Psychological Thriller
ISBN: 1472244362
Pages: 352

Nina and Marie were best friends—until Nina was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Before she died, Nina asked Marie to fulfill her final wishes.

But her mistake was in thinking Marie was someone she could trust.

What Nina didn’t know was that Marie always wanted her beautiful life, and that Marie has an agenda of her own. She’ll do anything to get what she wants.

Marie thinks she can keep her promise to her friend’s family on her own terms. But what she doesn’t know is that Nina was hiding explosive secrets of her own…

Marie is needy. And a little screwy. I’m sure there are more appropriate psychological terms and diagnoses but readers are left in little doubt that she has some obsessive tendencies and probably needs to stop changing therapists when they start to understand her.

But—despite some obvious issues—she seems to have been devoted to her childhood friend Nina. In a slightly possessive and manipulative way.

And I must admit, though I’m being glib about Marie she’s actually a kinda sympathetic character. There are glimpses of the person she could so nearly be. In fact in between bouts of obsessiveness she’s likeable. And engaging. In fact Hamilton takes us on an interesting journey with these characters and I’m reminded of the TV show Deadwood in which the characters we initially view as ‘bad’ or evil are actually perhaps not quite as we judge them to be, whereas those who seem decent or innocent are perhaps the ones we need to watch*.

Marie has her suspicions about the motives of those around her. They seem a little paranoid, but we learn perhaps they are justified after all. I think her manipulation of situations will be a struggle for readers but Hamilton gives us some insight into the ‘why’. And we’re actually in Marie’s head as the story unfolds from her point of view so we get to know the worst of what she’s doing and thinking. It occurs to me sometimes that—if someone was privy to our innermost thoughts, including those spiteful ones that leap from seemingly nowhere—we’d also not fare well. (Well, I’m sure I wouldn’t!)

This is an addictive read, and though it takes a while for Hamilton to unveil some of the secrets others are hiding, she keeps us guessing.

The Last Wife by Karen Hamilton was published by Hachette is and now available.

I received a copy of this from the publisher for review purposes.

* I know this is a common practice in character progression but it was very confronting for me in the TV show, so for me it’s the ‘Deadwood factor’.


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