Book - Such a Good Wife

Out now from Titan Books, Susan Omand didn't get the story she expected from Such a Good Wife by Seraphina Nova Glass...

I was expecting, for most of the time that I was reading Such a Good Wife, that it was going to be a run of the mill whodunnit, with fun but predictable plot twists and fluffy superficial characters. I was wrong. In hindsight, Melanie Hale is one of the strongest female protagonists that I’ve read in a long time.

Melanie Hale is a devoted mother and a loving wife, but there are the parts of herself that she keeps hidden. She’s exhausted and unfulfilled. So much so that one night, after a writers’ group meeting, Mel begins an affair with a local author named Luke. Suddenly she’s transformed into a role she doesn’t recognize—a woman who deceives with unseemly ease. A woman who might be capable of just about anything.

When Mel finds Luke’s dead body in his lavish rented house, she realizes just how high the stakes have become. Not only does she have to keep her affair a secret in order to preserve her marriage, but she desperately needs to avoid being implicated in Luke’s death. But who would want to kill him? Who else in her life is keeping secrets? And most terrifying of all, how far will they—and she—go to keep those secrets hidden?

Honestly, the synopsis above did no favours for me, but I think that is my fault. As a regular reader of thrillers and murder mysteries, I was expecting to get to the cliff-hanger mentioned a lot sooner than a third of the way through the book, so I was waiting for that to happen. Those first 130 odd pages set the scene, both of the affair and of Melanie Hale, from whose point of view the story is captured; a wife and mother longing for escape, caring for a mother-in-law with dementia and a child with special needs alongside a stroppy teen and a workaholic husband. The first 70 pages of her affair with handsome erotic author Luke is pure Mills and Boon, eyes meet across a crowded room, a drink, a lift home, one thing leads to another etc etc etc, very well written but oh so cliched. This is deliberate. The next bit is all about fleshing out Melanie’s character. For me, she wasn’t likeable at this point, her guilt about the affair was very wearing and she was being stupid about it. Other, seemingly peripheral, characters come in to play at this point to build what seem like spurious side stories, and it all just started to drag for me. Then Luke is found dead and I began to get the murder mystery that I was expecting.

And expecting is the word because, for the second third of the book, I had made up my mind about “whodunnit” and had the motive all sorted out. Melanie’s guilty paranoia increased, making her even more annoying, and everyone was doing what you thought they would in the circumstances. The spurious side stories still hung around though, and those characters started to come to the fore a little more than they should have. By the end of this third, I was starting to doubt my certainty over my murder theory.

The final third of the book is where it became, for me, unputdownable. Loose ends resolve, or don’t, in majestic, and totally believable, twists. People who I thought weren’t important to the plot suddenly took focus, others turned out to be red herrings, with one revelation so completely unexpected that I had to read that bit twice to make sure it was real. In fact, it’s a whole book that will be worth reading twice because of this - there’s so much going on in the build-up that I missed the first time because I was expecting something else. It’s a really, really clever plot. But the main thing for me with Such A Good Wife is that it’s a character study of Mel and her growth from cliched suburban housewife, through guilt-ridden paranoiac, to a strong, almost chillingly calculating, vengeance seeker by the end who is indeed “capable of just about anything.”

Put aside your expectations because this is not the book you think it’s going to be. It is a hundred times better than that.

Such A Good Wife by Seraphina Nova Glass is out now, published by Titan Books

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