THE SERIAL KILLER’S WIFE
By Alice Hunter
Publisher: Avon Books
Publication Date: 27th May 2021
Format: Paperback (384 pages)
Now it may just be me, but recently I have seen a real resurgence in Domestic Thrillers in both books and TV/Streaming. To genuinely find something that manages to feel fresh and new in the genre is both a pleasure and a surprise. For me, at least, The Serial Killer’s Wife ticks this box, by presenting a story that had a conclusion that I didn’t see coming.
The Serial Killer’s Wife centres around Beth, whose picture perfect life in a very small Yorkshire village is thrown into chaos after her husband, Tom, is taken in for questioning over the disappearance of one of his exes from years back. As the title suggested, Tom is indeed charged for this murder, but for most of the book, you are left unaware of who his other victim(s) are.
There are a few clues scattered around the book in terms of, what appears to be flashbacks from an un-named person, giving more insight into the workings behind this apparent law abiding, loving husband and father. You are never given a name on who this person is for most of the book and it only solidifies this feeling that you don’t really know what is going on inside someone’s head.
The other potential victim is the wife of Beths confidant and new friend, Adam. The circumstances around the fact that Adam’s wife apparently died due to having a sever allergic reaction to nuts, that she knew about but seemed to not take as seriously as she should have, felt off for most of the book and I ended up having really wild guesses that she and Tom were having an affair that resulted in him murdering her either due to her wanting to call it off or wanting to bring things out in the open. Mum’s the word here on whether I am right or not because you need to read the book to find out.
Yet, though these mysteries played on my mind, the heart of the book really does centre on how much Beth really knew about her husbands past. It is a credit to Hunter’s writing that I flipped and flopped for the earlier part of the book on how much Beth knew. It then made me reflect on the cases you hear on the TV about how someone is charged and ultimately found guilty of such horrible crimes. Yet, when anyone is interviewed, most of the time they will only say positive things about them or the fact that they kept themselves to themselves. This also includes spouses too, for you do hear and read about how criminals can compartmentalise their lives and hide the darker sides of their nature. This is what it felt like with Tom and Beth for most of the book and I couldn’t help but feel that Beth was as much as victim as Tom’s other victims. In Beths case, she was a victim of circumstance, yet our curiosity gets the better of us and we want to know why they didn’t see the warning signs.
The anger I felt at the treatment of Beth and her daughter, Poppy by the press and vigilantes really came to the front. Though Tom had been charged, his actions meant that Beth was free game for those outside to inflict their anger out on. I could see the writing on the wall that Beth and Poppy would have to move away and change their names in order to escape the tarnish caused by Tom.
When the doubt begins to creep in on Beth, I then saw what a difficult position she was put in due to the fact that Tom’s Lawyer was relying on her character reference to help cast doubt on Tom being the guilty of the crime. As is highlighted in throughout most of the book, there is no body and the lawyer thinks the evidence the police has is circumstantial at best. So, when the house of cards come crumbling down, Beth is stuck with a difficult position to be in and once again I couldn’t help but feel some sort of manipulation was going on by Tom since it appeared he was playing on Beth’s need for Poppy to have the father figure Beth didn’t growing up.
Beth is a very easy character to empathise and sympathise with throughout the book and though doubt is cast on how much she actually knew, I wanted her to come out of this stronger and more independent because of it. With the more I saw of Tom’s character, the more I became convinced that he had hoodwinked her and manipulated her to the point that she was solely reliant on him. With the threat to her daughters well being, the Mummy Bear rears its head and Beth takes matters into her own hands (Queue dramatic music)
The book heads into a heady climax and the revelations come pretty quick and fast in the last few chapters, to the point I had to go back re-read what had just happened. To say I didn’t see it coming is a bit of an understatement and I admit to gasping out loud towards the end. As I closed the book, I felt the impact of the end hit me and I was at a lost on what to read next. I don’t give 5 stars out very often, but this book deserves every one