Book Review

Pretty Little Wife by Darby Kane

Click for CW/TW for the book right here:

CW/TW for accounts of sexual abuse, kidnapping, domestic abuse, gaslighting, and sexual assault.

As I sat down to draft my review of Pretty Little Wife I realized it was going to have to be somewhat brief. It wasn’t that I didn’t have a lot to say about the book (I do!), it’s that this thriller is so beautifully plotted and executed that saying too much about the book would ruin the reading experience for other people. It’s one of those frustrating situations where I just want to shove the book into the hands of my friends and say, “Just trust me on this one. You’ll love it!”

This is what I can say about the book. Lila Ridgefield has spent years in a stifling marriage to her increasingly controlling husband, Aaron. Then one day she finds Aaron’s secret cell phone and the videos on it make her realize she married a monster. So she kills him.

Goodbye, Earl.

(Ed. note: HA! I’ve mentally named thrillers in this sub-genre of domestic suspense, “Earl Had to Die.”)

Lila sets it up to look like a suicide and waits for the police to contact her. Except there’s a problem: Aaron’s body isn’t where she left it. She doesn’t know where he is or if maybe he’s somehow still alive. Now the police are looking into his disappearance, so is his brother and his best friend, and Lila needs to figure out WTF is going on. Then she starts to get some creepy notes from someone who knows what she did.

Every time I thought I knew where this novel was going, I was wrong. The end surprised me, and it was immensely satisfying. Even though we know from the outset that Lila killed (or attempted to kill) Aaron, she never feels like a villain. Aaron belongs to that privileged class of incredibly shitty, gaslighting and abusive men who constantly get away with shitty behavior and who I can’t muster any level of empathy for. Aaron is a predator, and in real life he’d be one of those assholes who goes to “rehab” as part of his apology tour for victimizing women. In that respect, Lila’s actions feel like justice, not homicide. Frankly, it was cathartic to read about her murderous intent.

There are references to and accounts of sexual abuse, kidnapping, and assault in the book, but much of the violence occurs when characters are recounting events as opposed to it happening in real time. On a scale of one to ten where one is not scary at all and ten is the time I screamed out loud watching The Haunting of Hill House, I’d rate this book a six to seven. The story is really a cat-and-mouse game between Lila and Aaron (or whoever moved him), Lila and the police, and Lila and Aaron’s friends and family. It’s layers upon layers of deception, plots, counter-plots, and moments where I thought I figured out what was happening and was wrong.

That’s all I can really say without spoiling this wonderful, twisty thriller. Just trust me. You’ll love it.

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Pretty Little Wife by Darby Kane

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  1. 1
    Sydneysider says:

    Thanks for this review! If it’s possible to answer this without spoilers: how gory is it, and are the CW/TW things described in a lot of detail?

  2. 2
    DiscoDollyDeb says:

    Huge waiting list for this at the library…what will I find to read in the meantime? Also, for those who don’t know, Darby Kane is the alternate pen name of romance & romantic suspense writer, HelenKay Dimon.

  3. 3
    Elyse says:

    @Sydneysider it’s not very gorey. The things in the CW are described by characters remembering them so I think it removes it one step from happening on screen

  4. 4
    Darlynne says:

    Hmmm, 6-7 on the scary scale. Must decide if I’ll spend time afterwards with the covers over my head or afraid someone is going to jump at me out of the dark. Not that either of those have happened.

  5. 5
    Nikki H says:

    Great review! I immediately went to the library and was put on the list. There are 35 ahead of me but the library was smart enough to order 12 copies!

  6. 6
    Sydneysider says:

    @Elyse, Thanks! I will definitely check it out.

  7. 7
    Karen D says:

    This was already on my Holds list but since I generally love any thrillers/suspense that Elyse recommends, I’m even more excited now!

  8. 8
    Vasha says:

    This is more or less the setup of Les Diaboliques but I assume it’ll play out in a very different, more feminist manner …

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