Rebecca is shocked to find out her best friend Nicole has died by suicide. She finally seemed to have everything going right. A big house. A devoted husband, Richard. A burgeoning art career. However, in the aftermath of tragedy, Rebecca and Richard grow closer, and soon Rebecca discovers not everything was so idyllic. As she unravels the secrets of the past, she must face the still-lurking danger in the present.
Author Sheryl Browne is the master of the slow build. While a lot of thrillers pound through explosive scenes, taking a toll on heart-rates through sheer overuse of shock, Browne instead draws the action out. The Second Wife does open with the suicide of Nicole, which is explosive enough, but then Browne slows down the piece and really considers the psychological aspects. Take out the murder/suicide and it’s a living room drama.
All of this is not to suggest that the piece is without flash and tension. Rather, Browne has crafted her characters to take center stage, and they play their roles with relish. Each chapter is told from alternating viewpoints, each with a distinct and engaging voice. Nicole struggles in her new relationship with Richard. Richard juggles his new family situation with his past. Olivia, Richard’s daughter, plays master manipulator behind the scenes. And, of course, Rebecca enters, just trying to piece everything together.
It’s an effective mix of people and the result is deliciously atmospheric. Quickly, it’s apparent the something is off. Someone isn’t telling the whole truth, and it’s a race to discover the nefarious reality. And though Browne is careful to only drop information here and there, weaving the story slowly, the final scenes and revelations are downright pulse pounding. It’s a stunning feat.
For a character-driven thriller, they don’t come any better than The Second Wife.
Title: The Second Wife
Author: Sheryl Browne
Publication Date: January 29, 2019
Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.