An angry ex-wife is stalking a young, innocent fiancee who is a carbon copy of her former self…or so it seems.
The use of a multiviewpoint, chronologically complex narrative to create suspense by purposely misleading the reader is a really, really popular device. Two words: Gone Girl. While we are not the fools we once were and now assume immediately that we are being played, the question is whether we still take pleasure in the twists and revelations that follow. Pekkanen (The Perfect Neighbors, 2016, etc.) and Hendricks’ debut collaboration falls into the first wife/second wife subgenre of this type of story (e.g., The Girl Before, The Last Mrs. Parrish). In all of these, an unbelievably handsome, wildly successful, secretive, rigid, orderly, and controlling husband—here it’s Richard, a 36-year-old hedge fund manager with “a runner’s wiry build and an easy smile that belied his intense navy-blue eyes”—marries the same type of woman more than once, sometimes more than twice. Of course, he’s not who he seems. Perhaps the female characters are not, either. Here, we meet Nellie, an adorable New York preschool teacher who is not quite sure she wants to give up the fun, shoestring, highly social lifestyle she shares with her roomie to move to a sterile suburb with Richard. But the wedding date—of course he hasn’t even told her the location, just “buy a new bikini”—draws ever closer. Something bad happened to Nellie in Florida a long time ago that has made her anxious and hypervigilant. Meanwhile, Vanessa, the spurned wife, lives with her artist Aunt Charlotte (a great character), is boozing heavily, and is about to lose her job at Saks. She’s stalking Nellie, determined to prevent the marriage at all costs. Since you know there’s got to be more to it than this, the fun is in trying to figure it out before they tell you. We didn’t! One of the subplots, the one about the bad thing in Florida, was fresher than the main plot—maybe Hendricks and Pekkanen should have written a whole book about that.
Easy to read, smoothly put together. A good airport book.