This book starts out kind of clumsily, with Jack and Grace pretending to be the perfect couple. I think the word “perfect” was used probably a dozen times in the opening scene. But the tension is there from the first moment. Jack is beautiful, Grace is thin, the souffle comes out flawlessly. It’s not long before you find out that Jack is a sadistic abuser. I mean, you could pretty much tell that just by looking at the cover.
Things I didn’t like: Jack was a little too snidely whiplash. He tells Grace what he’s going to do, and she says what she’ll do, and he says what he’ll do in return and then she wrings her hands and moans woefully. She’s very eager-to-please, our Grace is, and it’s easy to get frustrated at her inability to get angry at Jack and stand up for herself in the beginning. It’s also kind of eye-rolling to have to listen to how perfect Jack is. Oh, another expensive present. Oh, the house is beautiful. Oh, we’re going to Thailand to the most exquisite hotel. Oh, isn’t our life flawless? It’s like a Lifetime movie interspersed with a DeBeers commercial.
Things I did like: Millie. Millie has Down’s Syndrome, but unlike most books with a non-neurotypical character, she seemed like an actual person rather than just a plot point. She also has strength of her own, which I liked. Also, as the book went on, and Grace’s situation became more and more desperate, I rooted for the sisters more. I wanted to see how they’d get out of it, whether she’d get free. The bit about the stairs at the wedding seemed out of character, upon consideration, but it’s the kind of detail that tied the plot together well enough that I’d forgive a little hand waving. Millie’s parents’ reaction to her also seemed all-too-plausible, even though they were poorly fleshed-out characters. I liked the way the women in the novel tried to come together to help her.
I found Jack’s character not plausible, in that he seemed to make Grace into a rather time-consuming hobby. But it was plausible in that he learned how to use his privilege to his advantage. He tells the police that his wife is mentally unstable and on medication, so when she accuses him of trying to kill her, he looks like a sympathetic and long-suffering husband. Reverse the genders and that ploy doesn’t really work so well. It was chilling enough that it gave me the idea to make a pact with my best friend that if either of us ever got engaged, we’d hire a private detective to investigate the potential groom. People who are capable of living their entire public life as a lie are not entirely uncommon, though I think most people don’t cover their tracks nearly so well.
This is a spooky, tense psycho-thriller that makes up for a slow and clunky start with an exciting and satisfying ending.