In Hunt’s debut thriller, what begins as a humdrum play-by-play of a community’s recovery from a disastrous hurricane blooms into a twisted tale involving two murders—both by the same hand.
On a whirlwind trip to Machu Picchu, 40-year-old Judy meets dashing and single Sam Haite on a train. They flirt; they fall in love; they marry and languish in pursuit of connubial bliss. Sam makes millions selling miniscule pets to wealthy yuppies and Judy dabbles in doling out physical therapy to patients at the local hospital. But following a party at the Haites’, an elderly couple from down the street is injured by a fallen tree. Eileen—the wife—survives, but her husband, Joe, is left brain-dead in critical condition. When a hurricane hits, so does the ensuing drama. After weeks of housing Eileen and Joe’s meddling relatives (who are waiting for Joe to die), Judy takes matters into her own hands by secretly suffocating Joe in a brutal act she calls a mercy killing. At this point, the tone and pacing of Hunt’s novel shifts and picks up speed. In quick succession—and in stark contrast to the languid tempo of the book’s first half—Judy is fired from her job, walks in on Sam having sex with an old college friend and leaves Florida for her parents’ cabin in Maine. When Sam visits Judy unannounced and fatally chokes on a fish bone during a heated conversation about their crumbling marriage, Judy does nothing to save him. In a Tom Ripley–esque manner, Judy chucks all vestiges of her old life into the sea—along with Sam’s ashes—and begins anew, with nary a backward glance of regret. While she doesn’t succeed in matching the psychological complexity of Highsmith’s writing, Hunt’s portrayal of Judy bares merit, even though Sam’s death feels sudden and Judy’s reaction seems too blasé to be fully believable. Perhaps if more red flags were raised and more clever hints about Judy’s warped mental state were artfully interspersed in the text, then readers wouldn’t feel so jilted at the book’s conclusion. Still, Hunt’s Judy is a deliciously intriguing portrait of what a trapped mind is capable of—and how far it will go to break free.
Not quite Ripley, but an enjoyable tour of a deranged mind nonetheless.