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Psychological thriller set in New York City (She’s not who you think she is…)

26th March 2018

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, psychological thriller set in New York City.

This is a twisty tale of wives, past, present and future and how the sisterhood perhaps should come together with one man as their focus. That man is Richard, suave and charismatic, a dandy dresser who is a real catch. And a catch, of course there is.

Psychological thriller set in New York City

He is charming, erudite, sophisticated and rich. Young school teacher Vanessa has soon caught his eye, malleable and pliant as she seems to be, and as ready as an open canvas on which he can daub his life values and experiences, and mold into the wife he wants. He helps fashion what she wears, he buys her a house out of the city, he even acquires a guard dog for her, to whom she becomes attached in his absences.

Too good to be true? You bet! As sure as night becomes day she begins to feel trapped in her ivory towers. His focus swings to creating a family, they are both on board in the early stages. Her mother’s sister, Aunt Charlotte, is beginning to feel uncomfortable with the changes she sees in her niece, she has never really taken to Richard; and Sam, her erstwhile flatmate, is becoming distanced. Her own mother, who has had mental health problems, is in the background until her death and becomes a useful mirror for Richard to flash at Vanessa when she seemingly steps out of line, disappearing into the oblivion of alcohol and crazy behaviour.

Vanessa and Richard each have issues from childhood and their teenage years, which are gradually revealed as the story progresses. The significance of their experiences becomes clearer, offering understanding of their motivations for behaving in proscribed ways..

Soon, Richard is itching to move on from this disaster of a marriage and has his eye on the perfect wife….

This is the story of a relationship where coercive control, subtle but sustained, is at the heart. Just before the halfway point there is a chapter which I had to re-read, I just wasn’t clear what was going on (had I missed something? Had I lost concentration? What on earth was going on…?), and I think this experience echoes other reviews which describe the storyline as a little muddled. To some extent I concur, but I think the authors deftly inserted a smoke screen of confusion for the reader in order to echo the disorientation that is often prevalent in a relationship where domestic abuse just might be a feature.

New York is a colourful backdrop, an evening at Sfoglia gives the setting an authentic feel.

Overall, a good and gripping read. I wasn’t totally convinced by the marital dynamic but it made a good story.

I will be very interested to see where this writing duo goes next. And indeed, I will be very curious to see what the film will be like (the rights have been bought by Steven Spielberg’s film production company)!

Tina for the TripFiction Team

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