Pretty Little Wife by Darby Kane was one of the first books I purchased from Book of the Month club. I love a good thriller/mystery. And this was another one flying and my social media feeds as a hot new read. As someone who (still, somehow, someday) still hopes to publish my own novel(s), I was also drawn to this book because it’s Darby Kane’s debut novel. You know, rah-rah, new female suspense/thriller novelist. I’ll give it a read.
Summary: The byline of this book jacket really captured my attention: shouldn’t a dead husband stay dead? So you know from the get-go that our protagonist, Lila Ridgefield, has something to hide. She appears to be the perfect wife: well-dressed, well-educated, intelligent. But it quickly becomes apparent that her marriage is far from perfect (i.e. the opening scene, where she’s confronting him about explicit videos she found on a burner phone and he puts his hands around her neck). So yeah, not the ideal marriage. Her husband goes missing from their small-town, where a college student also recently went missing. While the cases are at first treated as separate incidents, a local Podcast connects these 2 missing persons’ cases to yet another disappearance within the last few years. The police search for a connection, not realizing just how tied together the cases are. Lila was the last person to see her husband, Aaron’s, body. She fights through confusion, anxiety, and the small town’s preconceived notions of her, who they thought her husband was, and the marriage everyone else thinks she had.
Now, for the review.
I have to say, there was some pretty dismal writing in this book. It was fine (which is not how you want to describe a book; fine is a response you give to “How was your annual gynecological exam?” or “How was your work’s Zoom Christmas party?”) There were actually quite a few grammatical errors, and the writing was just…matter-of-fact. I didn’t feel any passion from the protagonist. She was a robot. Which I get it, she was supposed to be: but even her innermost thoughts and feelings were pretty bleak.
She killed her fucking husband, and even THAT doesn’t bring about some kind of passion, some true anxiety, not even an ounce of remorse? Either Darcy Kane needs to build on her prose skills, or Lila Ridgefield is a textbook sociopath. Maybe it’s a bit of both?
I found Ginny, the lead detective in Aaron’s missing person case, to be more likeable than Lila. Lila is so calculated, so secretive. She’s the definition of an unreliable narrator. You don’t trust a word she says, or thinks. There is hidden meaning in many of her words and actions. Aka: I don’t trust the bitch. And for good reason. Ginny is real: she’s tough, she’s driven, she doesn’t pretend to be something she’s not. She fights the god-forsaken patriarchy in the form of her misogynistic boss with passive-aggression and tight smiles. Ginny was a relatable and strong character.
I also found unexpected pleasure in the development of Cassie (the nosy neighbor)’s character, and her transformation in Lila’s mind. I did feel Kane could have developed Cassie’s character a bit more, but I did enjoy the foil of her character.
Conclusion: I love a good thriller/suspense novel. This book had some twists and turns, and I thought I had the ending pegged down from the first few chapters. I was pleasantly surprised that my guess wasn’t (entirely) correct. Pretty Little Wife gets three out of five stars for me. The suspense level was good, the storyline was decent, but the writing style was not my favorite. If Darby Kane were to release another book, I wouldn’t rush to pre-order it, but I would probably read it for the suspense factor.