It starts with a stabbing. But fifteen years earlier, Lily is a newly-minted solicitor who, as she secures a place with a prestigious legal firm in London, resolves to make a fresh start and put her woes and secrets behind her. She’s helped in this mission when she meets up-and-coming artist, Ed at one of those parties no one really enjoys. Ed proposes on their second date and Lily finds herself swept away for a romantic Italian honeymoon.
Jane Corry’s My Husband’s Wife has haunted me ever since a review copy slipped into my bag at the inaugural meeting of the First Monday Crime Club and then, a few evenings later, a flyer whispered out from the elegant surrounding of the University Women’s Club. At first glance, this is not the sort of book I would usually read. I like my crime hard-boiled and plot-driven with plenty of opportunity for the reader to outwit the author. My Husband’s Wife, with its pastel-coloured wraps boldly proclaiming ‘first comes love’ looks like another chick-lit romance dressed up as family saga. And the crime is given away on page two! Yet this is just one of many intriguing semi-deceptions – make no mistake, there’s intrigue and layering and mind games aplenty.
The honeymoon is not a success and back in their South London flat, the couple’s flaws and insecurities begin to pressure their relationship. And then Lily meets Joe – a convicted murder who both attracts and repels her, and reminds her of her own chaotic past – and Ed meets Carla, a young girl who lives in the same block of flats and who will become his muse.
My Husband’s Wife is very much Lily’s story – eventually revealing not only her future but also her past – but it’s Carla who drives the plot and is, ultimately, the most interesting of characters. She’s Italian, and different. She struggles to fit in with suburban London and resents playing second-place to her mother’s Sugar Daddy. Initially she elicits sympathy but it soon becomes clear that she isn’t the innocent she plays and she relies on her manipulative and duplicitous tendencies to get want she wants. She is, if such thing is possible, an innocently evil child who grows into a manipulative and largely amoral adult – and yet Corry constantly challenges the reader to empathy, questioning whether Carla is really responsible for her actions, even when she commits the most heinous betrayals. Similarly, Joe, now released from prison largely thanks to Lily’s belief in his innocence, has loyalty and gratitude which manifests in shockingly unexpected ways.
Corry adeptly layers intrigue upon secret – enough to keep any crime fiction fan gripped – but there’s more to My Husband’s Wife than that. It has a more human, softer element than many modern novels of the genre, blurring concepts of good and bad and, by peeling away a past that echoes into the present, it invites repeated character reassessment. There are no heroes here -nothing is so black and white. And who’s to say that murder is the most hurtful of human acts or that time and justice bring healing?
My Husband’s Wife is a thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking read. A slow-burn psychological drama with a crescendo ending.
Want to know what others have thought of the book before you decide whether to read it or not? My Husband’s Wife is on a blog tour between 5th May and 5th June 2016, so there are lots of other reviews and views to choose from. There’s a great Q&A with Jane Corry on the Orenda Books blog and I really liked the reviews from bookbloggers Anne Cater (on Random Things Through My Letterbox) and Ana (on This Chick Reads).
My Husband’s Wife will be published as an e-book on 26 May 2016 as an e-book and, in paperback, on 25 August 2016 by Penguin Books.