Beth and Tom Hardcastle live in the sort of village where everyone knows everyone else’s business. It doesn’t take long, therefore, for news to travel when the police appear at Beth’s door. Thinking that something bad has happened to her husband, Beth is shocked when she is told that Tom is helping them with their enquiries into the disappearance and possible murder of his former girlfriend. As the evidence begins to mount, Beth begins to wonder how much she actually knows her husband. The villagers have other nagging doubts, though: surely as his wife, Beth must have suspected… mustn’t she?
This debut from Alice Hunter takes the traditional serial killer book and turns it on its head by not having its focus on the perpetrator or the police investigation. As the title suggests, we see most of the story from the perspective of Beth, a woman with a successful cafe, a young daughter and a seemingly loving husband. We soon realise however that, despite her ‘perfect’ life, she appears quite lonely with no family and no real friends. This adds to the devastation when her husband is arrested as she doesn’t really have anyone close who she can turn to. I liked how the author developed the character of Beth and enjoyed reading a book about the killer’s wife rather than the killer – something I haven’t read about in many books.
It is no spoiler to reveal that Tom is a killer as this is more than suggested in the title of the book, so the focus isn’t on if he did it but whether or not there is evidence to prove it. As the book progresses, we find out more about his life before he met Beth, building up a complete picture of the character that is trying to prove his innocence. I liked how, as a reader, there is no ambiguity about his character, but we have nagging doubts about Beth. Has she been covering up for him or did she genuinely not know?
The Serial Killer’s Wife is a slow burner of a book, but this does not mean that it is not a gripping read – far from it! I raced through it, eagerly awaiting the outcome and was totally taken aback by the twist at the end. This is one of those books where you know something is coming, but can’t figure out what and Alice Hunter keeps us waiting right until the end to hit us with something that will truly make you gasp.
This is a superb debut and, on the strength of this, I can’t wait to read Alice Hunter’s next book.
With thanks to Ellie Pilcher and Eleanor Slater at Avon for my ARC and for organising the blog tour.