Sunday, May 17, 2020

The Wife Stalker

The Wife Stalker by Liv Constantine
HarperCollins: 5/19/20
eBook review copy; 320 pages

The Wife Stalker by Liv Constantine is a highly recommended psychological thriller set in upscale Westport, Connecticut.

Piper Reynard has recently moved to Westport where she runs a rehab and wellness space and joins a local yacht club. She is starting over with a new name and hopes that her past won't catch up to her here. When she meets Leo Drakos, a handsome, successful lawyer, she feels an immediate attraction and knows he feels the same way - despite the ring on his finger. Piper maneuvers things so the two quickly become very close. At home, Joanna knows that the depression Leo has been battling will lift sometime and the charming, energetic man she loves will return. He certainly loves the children, Evie and Stelli. Joanna is shocked to discover that Leo's mood has been lifting due to Piper.

When Joanna has to take care of her mother and moves out of the house, she is shocked when Leo sends all her belongings there and tells her it is over. How could he divorce her and keep her away from the children all because he just met Piper? And who is this interloper anyway? Joanna begins to dig into Piper's mysterious past while at the same time Leo marries her. Joanna tries to talk to her therapist about her concerns but they are dismissed. Piper does have secrets in her past that Joanna is uncovering. In the meantime, Piper is struggling to be a stepmother to the children.

The narrative alternates between the point-of-view of Piper and Joanna. Clearly Joanna does not recognize the threat Piper poses to her until it is too late. It also becomes clear that neither woman is a completely reliable narrator. Joanna is clearly written as the wounded party and Piper as a scheming home-breaker in the beginning. Piper's point-of-view displays her in a negative light as we know her struggles and frustrations, while Joanna's first person account shows a caring mother and hurt wife. Then, as the plot continues, the actions of both women just don't quite line up and astute readers are going to pick up on the aberrant clues quickly. Chiefly among the first hints that something is amiss is that Leo's depression and the onset of it is addressed obliquely, but never candidly.  Then the narrative becomes somewhat of a cat-and-mouse game as you wait for someone to show their true nature.

Liv Constantine is the writing team of sisters Lynne Constantine and Valerie Constantine. You may have to set aside disbelief over several events in the novel, but it is a well-crafted psychological thriller. They use the alternating points-of-view successfully to methodically ratchet up the tension and disbelief until the final twisty denouement. The alternating POVs allow some character development, but it also requires that they hold things back to provide the finale with several shocking reveals.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.

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