"There was something desolate about them. They showed a melancholy sky bleeding into a grey, formless sea. Eternal and unpeopled."
'The First Wife' by Jill Childs, a journalist turned author who lives in London, is a shadowy thriller about a woman who's life has sort of crumbled.. leaving her alone and adrift.
When her childhood friend asks her to visit, she accepts.. but when she gets there, her arrival seems unexpected. Her friend has changed greatly from what she remembers and her little girl is withdrawn and silent, prone to terrors and seemingly isolated from her family in the home.. and Sophie's presence sets off a chain of events she never sees coming.
To be fair, I'm typically really intuitive and adept at seeing plot threads as they emerge, so I did have some inklings as to what was happening and where the story might end up. BUT.. that being said, the threads were far from blatant.
"We had treats and outings, paying final visits to the places in Hong Kong she knew, without her even realizing she was saying goodbye to them."
Childs is a skilled writer, with a knack for subtle foreshadowing. She doesn't overuse that skill and allow you to grow too accustomed to it either. Occasionally, she might clue you in a bit heavy-handedly, I suspect as a way to draw you in and help you feel secure. However, the most important glimpses of that foreshadowing are handled with all the expertise of a surgeon. Carefully placing them in the least obvious spot, she diverts your attention with other things.
Each time I saw it happen, it was enough to rouse my suspicion, but then I'd read on before focusing on it and it would become more of a nagging buzz at the back of my thoughts. I was engrossed enough that I just wanted to keep reading.. to keep discovering.. rather than giving that buzz any real attention.
As the story developed and new things would come to light, I'd find myself thinking.. 'I did notice that' or 'I considered that possibility'.. but I never dwelt on it long enough to become so certain in my suspicions that I lost interest and didn't want to read any further. And I think that's a gift. To welcome the reader in enough as to let them feel as if they're in on the secret, without ruining the discoveries.
I wasn't positive I was correct in my assumptions until I was nearly two-thirds of the way through the book and that's saying a lot for the author's ability. The twists aren't really shocking, in fact.. there are one or two too many of them for my liking, but I still enjoyed the book immensely.
"The sea, out there in the darkness, indifferent to us all, ebbed and flowed, its waves breaking and retreating in a rumble of stones.
As invisible as death and just as certain."
My only complaint came after the climax in the final pages of the novel. I just thing.. considering how the person felt.. and the situation they found themselves in.. it didn't ring true. The words laid down as you get closer and closer to the end.. are actually rather cruel and it felt like they existed solely for the purpose of some sweeping drama which the story didn't need. Granted, it worked. Out of the blue, this story left me bawling my eyes out.. and thrillers are never particularly emotional. But, well.. they're something to be said for relating to a feeling for someone.
Definitely a worthwhile read and I highly suggest it to anyone who's a fan of thrillers or mysteries.