My Husband’s Wife has a bit of everything. It’s the story of a marriage, it’s a legal thriller, and it’s a tale of revenge eaten cold and hot. Romance, suspense, revenge, and murder. With such ambition, it could sprawl everywhere, but author Jane Corry’s discipline reins it in and stays in control. Through alternating chapters, it tells the story of Lily who is a new lawyer and even more newly wed and Carla, the young child who happens to live across the hall from her.
While the opening begins with someone being attacked and left for dead and the news headline announcing the murder of the artist whom both women in the novel orbited. The story jumps back fifteen years immediately to when Lily returned from her honeymoon to her first murder case, working the appeal of Joe Thomas who has been convicted of murdering his girlfriend.
The case is all-consuming, straining her newly minted marriage to Ed MacDonald. Ed probably resents her work because he is doing work her hats while aspiring to a career as an artist and gallery owner. Across the hall, Carla lives with her mother Francesca. Carla is a beautiful nine-year-old girl who loves her mother and mourns her father who died when she was too young to remember him. They’re poor and Carla learns that a lot of their financial security is dependent on Larry who comes to visit her mother. Carla does not like Larry, though she perfects the art of extortion extracting gifts and help from him. She finds herself spending Sundays with Lily and Ed while her mom works, though she discovers soon enough that her mom was really just having Larry over. Larry is a married man, Francesca hopes he will leave his wife, but Carla hopes he will go away.
Everything blows up when the murder appeal ends and Lily discovers that Carla’s mom has been using them to watch Carla to have an affair with a married man, someone she works with. She threatens to expose them and the end of the affair ends up with Francesca and Carla back in Italy.
The book jumps forward twelve years. Carla is an adult who has just earned her law degree and has come to England again to add UK credentials, enhancing her long-term prospects. That’s the reason she gives, though her true reason is to seek revenge on Larry who abandoned her mother, on Ed whose artistic success is based on his paintings and drawings of her, and most of all, on Lily whose angry threats sent her mother back to Italy. It may not be rational since Carla wanted Larry gone, too, but it’s based on the perceptions of a child.
My Husband’s Wife is fast-paced and keeps your interest. There are several story threads, the relationship with Lily and her client Joe Thomas, her marriage to Ed, their use of Carla as a buffer between them while they struggled in their marriage, Carla’s development as an extortionist extraordinaire, and her revenge. The plot is complex, but comes together well. Things make sense.
I was less entranced with the character development. The people seemed in some ways archetypes. Ed is the resentful, less successful husband. Lily is the ambitious female lawyer sacrificing home and family for her career, driven by childhood guilt. Carla is a bit of a sociopath from childhood. While she’s no Rhoda Penmark, she is disturbing as a child and an adult. Add Daniel, Lily’s dead brother, and Tom, Lily and Frank’s increasingly violent son, and there’s too much of the “Bad Seed” for me. There’s also an unfair association with Asperger’s Syndrome and violence and criminal behavior. While it is true that there may be problems with impulse control, there is no evidence to support that association.
The story is interesting and fast-paced, the weakest element is character development and I look forward to read her next book, in hopes that her characters will be as satisfying as her plotting and pace.
My Husband’s Wife will be released on January 31, 2017. I was provided an advance e-galley from the publisher through First to Read.