Screenwriter Christian White knows his way around a plot twist. Even the most die-hard thriller reader will be surprised at the direction The Wife and the Widow takes, but even without its truly shocking reveal, White’s thriller stands out for its penetrating examination of marriage and the lies that build between spouses.
Abby and her husband, Ray, are eking out a living on a gothic, windswept island off the coast of Victoria, Australia. When the police find the body of a man who died under suspicious circumstances, it disrupts the sleepy island community—and makes Abby notice how strangely Ray has been acting. Suddenly distant and secretive, Ray has disposed of his work clothes and can’t account for all his time away from home.
Just as Abby is struggling to reconcile her husband’s odd behavior, stay-at-home mom Kate is suddenly questioning everything she knows about her husband, John. After he doesn’t come home from what he said was a business trip, Kate learns that John quit his job three months ago. The only place she can think to look for her missing husband is the island where they own a vacation home.
White’s eerie, patient unraveling of small deceptions makes The Wife and the Widow a hypnotic reading experience. Both Kate and Abby’s worlds experience seismic shifts, but due to what appear to be, at first, trivial lies. Even as the suspense builds and trivial lies snowball into something much more devastating, a sense of sadness grounds the novel as Kate and Abby grieve for the relationships they thought they had. Unlike most domestic thrillers, the female leads here aren’t the victims of violence; rather their trauma comes from living lives they realize were permeated with lies. When the truth about John and Ray is finally revealed it feels explosive, but also like a relief from a nagging ache.
Heartbreaking and contemplative, The Wife and the Widow is one of those mysteries that lingers in the reader’s mind long after it is finished.