One evening, while Beth is waiting for her husband to come home in time to say goodnight to their daughter, Poppy, two police officers knock at the door. She has no idea why Tom is so much later than he usually is, and is puzzled by why the police suddenly want to question him, after all this time, about the disappearance of his former girlfriend, Katie?
The idea behind The Serial Killer’s Wife is intriguing, but the execution is not completely convincing. Most of the story is told from the unusual viewpoint of Beth, with occasional contributions from Tom, and flashbacks from Katie. This could have been a much more interesting story – it took too long to get going, and there are just too many repetitive passages about Beth carrying on as normal while Tom is in police custody.
Tom and Beth are both unreliable narrators, which is not uncommon in this kind of story. Unfortunately, I had little sympathy for either of them. His thoughts show him to be self-absorbed, controlling and violent, but I’m not sure his narrative voice was convincing as that of a serial killer. Right from the start Beth’s behaviour is strange. She seems obsessed with how others see her and giving her daughter a better life than she had when she was growing up. This might have been easier to understand had Alice Hunter let the reader in on a bit of her backstory; instead she just comes across as self-obsessed and heartless.
Despite having lived in the village for two years, they don’t seem to have made any friends, even though their daughter is at the nursery school. This isolation should ring alarm bells. The overwhelming feeling is that they are both hiding something; their perfect life is just a façade.
There is one final twist right at the end; I did not see it coming, but it felt forced and perhaps The Serial Killer’s Wife would have been a better book without it. The writing is good, and I kept reading to the end, but the character development leaves a lot to be desired. I will certainly look out for Alice Hunter’s next book even though this debut did not live up to my expectations.
Thanks to Avon and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.