The Last Wife – Karen Hamilton
Available in ebook, hardback, audio (25 June 2020) | paperback (10 December 2020)
Source: Copy received for review
My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the tour invite and to the publisher for providing the review copy. I reviewed The Perfect Girlfriend last year, and was looking forward to seeing what Karen Hamilton came up with next. My review is below, but first, the book.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Two women. A dying wish. And a web of lies that will bring their world crashing down.
Nina and Marie were best friends-until Nina was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Before she died, Nina asked Marie to fulfill her final wishes.
But her mistake was in thinking Marie was someone she could trust.
What Nina didn’t know was that Marie always wanted her beautiful life, and that Marie has an agenda of her own. She’ll do anything to get what she wants.
Marie thinks she can keep her promise to her friend’s family on her own terms. But what she doesn’t know is that Nina was hiding explosive secrets of her own…
Karen Hamilton has created yet another unreliable and to my mind, thoroughly unlikeable, narrator here with the main character, Marie.
Nina and Marie were best friends, all through school days, university and beyond and Marie thought she knew everything about her friend. They were so close that when Nina asked Marie to fulfil her final wishes and look out for her family following her death, Marie didn’t hesitate to agree. What Nina didn’t know was that Marie had always wanted what Nina had and now she had the perfect opportunity to take what she wanted.
The Last Wife is very much character driven, and believe me, a good many of the characters here are thoroughly unlikeable and to some degree untrustworthy – you realise just how much when the layers are gradually revealed. The story is voiced by Marie and the fact that the reader has access to her innermost thoughts (including her many therapist sessions), makes some aspects of her behaviour even more disturbing. Marie is a compulsive liar and manipulates people and situations to get her own way. Much of the time you have no idea whether she is telling the truth or just spinning another line to get sympathy or some personal gain. Against this backdrop however the more history that is disclosed you begin to realise that underneath all this calculated behaviour and deceit is a needy and insecure person, someone who never felt good enough on her own terms, and someone who will now stop at nothing to get what she wants.
Although the plot is intriguing, I would describe this more as domestic suspense than a true psychological thriller. Despite the fact that someone is clearly out to scare Marie with sinister anonymous notes and parcels, I never really got that feeling of fear and tension in worrying about the who and the why, and whether it was someone close to home or not. To be fair, she had upset so many people, it could have been anyone. There are certainly plenty of twists and surprises within the story and it seems that nearly everyone has secrets they are hiding.
I didn’t think that that the author could top The Perfect Girlfriend when it comes to complicated and warped characters but she has certainly smashed the ball out of the park here. There is a saying ‘be careful what you wish for’. Somebody didn’t listen!
A story of obsessive friendships, toxic relationships, deceit and desperation. The Last Wife is an enjoyable and addictive read with some awful flawed characters that will certainly get under your skin. If you love the unlikeable, then this will be for you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Karen Hamilton spent her childhood in Angola, Zimbabwe, Belgium and Italy, and developed a love of travel through moving around so much. This led her to a career as a flight attendant, and it was in the air that she thought of the idea for her debut thriller The Perfect Girlfriend.
Karen is a recent graduate of the Faber Academy, and has now put down roots in Hampshire to raise her young family with her husband. The Perfect Girlfriend was a Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller in paperback. The Last Wife is her hotly anticipated second novel.