If you watch the trailer for this book on Youtube, you’ll see it being praised from on high by the likes of Val McDermid, Sophie Hannah, Kate Atkinson, S.J. Watson and so on and so on. They’ll waffle on about its “devastating finale”, how it’s a “terrific debut” and will even proclaim it to be “better than Gone Girl”. Well, all that effusive gushing was enough to persuade me and I bought a copy. Having now finished reading it, I find myself quoting a Tori Amos lyric, “baby, what have you been smoking?”
Fair warning; this review is going to be packed to the drawstrings with plot spoilers. If, for some reason, you still want to read this sorry excuse for a novel and don’t want any of its “plot” to be ruined for you, stop reading now. Still here? Ok. Todd & Jodi have been together for twenty years. He’s a building contractor, she’s a psychologist. He’s a stereotypical mid 40’s man who has never been faithful, she’s a vacuous fuckwit who puts up with it. When he gets his best friend’s daughter pregnant, she forces him to end things with Jodi and move in with her. As they were never married (Jodi never wanted to, apparently), it’s easy for Todd to upend things for Jodi. He doesn’t count on Jodi fighting back.
And that is really it. I can only assume the comparisons to Gone Girl have been brought about by the alternating chapters from “Him” and “Her” viewpoints. There can be no other reason. Flynn’s novel was a deep, layered, chilling shocker of a book. The Silent Wife is mostly boring, lazy and barely one dimensional when it isn’t being utterly fucking incredulous. It is fully three quarters of the way through the book before Jodi begins to entertain the idea of offing her husband. There’s an odd sort of attempt with some sleeping pills much earlier, but it’s never mentioned again (nor is it ever really explained how the sleeping pills got to where they were or why Todd didn’t know they were there beforehand).
If you’re going to write a book about the “dark side” of relationships, it helps a lot if at least one of the people in the relationship isn’t a shallow, poorly constructed fucktard. Here, Jodi is a feckless moron, and endless reams of dialogue between her and a psychotherapist don’t change your opinion. The big revelation, that she was sexually abused by her older brother, adds nothing to her character or to the plot. She does almost nothing pro-actively and the way a hitman is brought into the scenario is shabby as to defy description. Todd is a neurotic thunderheaded dipshit, so wildly inconsistent in his behaviour, it’s more bad writing than it is a flawed personality. And the girl he leaves Jodi for has her hen pecking insecurities piled on so thick she tips into caricature almost instantly. It’s all so lazily thrown together and drawn out, it’s impossible to care who ends up dead and who doesn’t.
To add insult to injury, the finale is only devastating to those of us who hoped it might be good. I was hoping for a rug pull, but Harrison’s feeble attempt at one barely jolts the nest of occasional tables. To try and create some (much needed) ambiguity, Harrison asks the reader to swallow the most ridiculous coincidence. I refused, and it was at this point I vowed never to read another book by this so-called author as long as I live. One final comparison to Gone Girl. Flynn’s ending shook me up and I can’t shake the closing lines even now, some four months after reading it. I finished The Silent Wife earlier today and I couldn’t tell you, even now, anything of the last paragraph.