Book Review: The Wife and the Widow

Set against the backdrop of an eerie island town in the dead of winter, The Wife and The Widow is an unsettling thriller told from two perspectives: Kate, a widow whose grief is compounded by what she learns about her dead husband’s secret life; and Abby, an island local whose world is turned upside when she’s forced to confront the evidence of her husband’s guilt. But nothing on this island is quite as it seems, and only when these women come together can they discover the whole story about the men in their lives. Brilliant and beguiling, The Wife and The Widow takes you to a cliff edge and asks the question: how well do we really know the people we love?

What would you sacrifice to protect someone you love?

The plot of “The Wife and the Widow” is reminiscent of Alex Michaelides’ The Silent Patient, the latter being one of the most awarded and talked-about thrillers of 2019. Novels of this caliber are truly deserving of praise greatly attributed to the authors’ intelligent manipulation of multiple timelines and dual perspectives. The sheer likability of this novel is not the story itself but the way White circumvented the multiple timelines, setting the pace for the big reveal. The result is a brilliant and staggering thriller piece that will leave you breathless afterward.  

The story revolves around the novel’s two female characters, Abby Gilpin and Kate Keddie-the wife and the widow, respectively.  Kate and her daughter, Mia, were supposed to surprise Kate’s husband, John, at the airport from his two-week conference in London for a palliative care research colloquium; but he didn’t arrive as scheduled. Kate soon learns that her husband lied about the conference and so many other things: dark secrets connecting her husband to a tragedy that took place in Belport Island.  What Kate discovers as she sets foot in their holiday home in Belport, starts to unsettle her usual passive demeanor, prompts her to reflect on how well she knew her husband urging her to seek for answers to questions that would reveal so many hidden truths. As Kate learns more about her husband’s past, she knew she will stop at nothing until she finds out what truly happened, even to risk her life for it.

Abby Gilpin’s seemingly normal life changed drastically when her husband confessed to a crime that was the biggest thing to happen in Belport Island in a long time.  Abby soon learns to face the truth about what her husband did and what she decides after that is tethered to the most basic of all maternal instincts: a mother’s protective nature.

Both wives were lied to.  Both husbands were not who they appear to be.  The hunt is on but are they prepared to handle the truth?

This is a clever and brilliantly written book, far better than what I expected.  In terms of plot, “The Wife and the Widow” sits on a high ground due to the complexity of its narrative structure. But the book’s value lies within White’s depiction of the roles mother play in defending and protecting their children even in the most afflicting of circumstances.  The moral problems explored in the book left me with an emotional discomfort that makes me question how far would I go to protect my children. Would the fear of moral ramifications even deter me from making unethical decisions to defend my family? White wishes to implore his readers to think about the implications of every action portrayed in his book.  I just couldn’t help but gush how thought-provoking this novel is. I don’t think I have ever devoured a book as unputdownable as this in a long time and my final verdict is that every reader must learn from stories like this because it may not be far from reality.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Author: Christian White

Genre: Mystery Thriller / Crime Fiction

Length: 352 pages

Publisher: January 21st 2020 by Minotaur Books

ISBN-10: 1250194377

ISBN-13: 9781250194374

Book Review: The Kill Club


Jazz will stop at nothing to save her brother.

Their foster mother, Carol, has always been fanatical, but with Jazz grown up and out of the house, Carol takes a dangerous turn that threatens thirteen-year-old Joaquin’s life. Over and over, child services fails to intervene, and Joaquin is running out of time.

Then Jazz gets a blocked call from someone offering a solution. There are others like her—people the law has failed. They’ve formed an underground network of “helpers,” each agreeing to eliminate the abuser of another. They’re taking back their power and leaving a trail of bodies throughout Los Angeles—dubbed the Blackbird Killings. If Jazz joins them, they’ll take care of Carol for good.


Armed with an intriguing plot, “The Kill Club” by Wendy Heard depicts the true-crime scenario of murder-for-hire instigators.  Heard noted that none of the stories portrayed in her novel are fictional–that these contract killings are real and much more sinister than fiction.  

“The Kill Club” illustrates the provocation behind people who seek murder-for-hire running on lethal hate and desperation or frustrations from the social and judicial system.  These are people who have run out of options and have taken liberties to put an end to abuse or a lifetime of shame and suffering from fractured relationships. And then there are those motivated by greed, jealousy, or are just plain twisted.

As a thriller genre fanatic, I was immediately attracted to the book’s premise.  Armed with strong female leads, this book was a quick read from start to finish. It is the kind of story that makes you question how far can you go to protect someone or yourself from faulty individuals or from a defective society. Readers also get to inspect the motivation behind the novel’s antagonists who seem to justify creating the “Kill Club” as a solution, not an assassination, to a flawed judicial system. A chilling revelation nevertheless a truth that is as real as it is fictionalized.  

But the story is not all about murder.  Heard also tackled issues of social hierarchy–the demarcation between the rich and the poor, social injustices, religious fanaticism, and domestic abuse.   All of which pose bigger problems that almost always result in criminal acts. The novel is also a reflection of the fallibility of the social system that incessantly brings about violence deemed as the final refuge of the desperate, leaving crime problems insolvable.

A thriller that will keep you guessing until the end, “The Kill Club” is a social commentary novel that will appeal to the reader’s sense of justice, pondering upon concerns such as taking the law into one’s own hands and the justification of such acts.  

Save for the not-so-appealing aspects of the novel, the main premise is interesting enough and worthy of discussion.   Details such as the flimsy attempt to pass the novel as lesbian literature felt misplaced. The multiple twists and turns fell flat for me; the timeline was quite confusing, and the writing has been subpar at best.  The sudden emergence of more characters left no room for development. The motivation behind the Blackbird killings was a total letdown. I was expecting a grander scheme and a more believable and strategic discourse.  Now, what bothers me up to this point is the messy reasoning behind having someone do your dirty work only to return the favor. Isn’t the logic behind hiring someone to do the killing, is for you to be rid of blood in your hands?  As messed up as it is, “The Kill Club” may have failed to end on a high-octane note but it still had a good run from the onset.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Author: Wendy Heard

Genre: Mystery & Thriller / Women’s Psychological Fiction

Length: 368 pages

Publisher: MIRA; Original edition (December 17, 2019)

ISBN-10: 0778309037

ISBN-13: 978-0778309031

Book Review: The Family Upstairs


Be careful who you let in.

Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.

She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them.

Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.

In The Family Upstairs, the master of “bone-chilling suspense” (People) brings us the can’t-look-away story of three entangled families living in a house with the darkest of secrets.


Lisa Jewell’s seventeenth novel, “The Family Upstairs” was a lot to take in.  From the novel’s prologue up until the final chapter, I couldn’t put the book down.  It urges you to flip one more page until you find yourself a page left before the Acknowledgments.  Having read the book’s final lines, I found myself having to deal with the aftermath of emotional reverberations.

Lined with a gripping storyline, seared with Gothic elements and literary irony, Jewell has written a story of innocence lost and lives stolen and how those betrayed of their childhood would do anything to claim what was rightfully theirs.  

Jewell’s enigmatic and descriptive writing style is enough to hook you.  Her writing technique changes for every character that doesn’t just highlight the writing skill of the author but also helps set character behaviors apart.  

The multiple first-person POVs were expertly done balancing out the suspense as the readers go through each of the character’s narrative.  Jewell has written the chapters in such a way that she ends every chapter with a cliffhanger. The alternating POVs were laid out in a manner that responds to the baffling questions raised in the previous chapter.  Jewell has done a masterful job transitioning between dual timeframes that being transported into different scenes felt like a real palpable journey for the readers.

But unlike many other thriller novels, “The Family Upstairs” rejects the usual murder mystery trope found in most books of the same genre.  This novel offers its readers something else entirely: a narrative about getting back what was once lost. It is predominantly a novel about the relationship between parents and their children and how families differ from one another.   Several times throughout the novel I found myself rooting for a happy ending begging myself not to turn a page for fear of a darker plot twist. But the underlying thrill in settling for mystery novels asserts an irrevocable fact: the more sinister it gets, the better. 

Despite gaining mixed reviews, “The Family Upstairs” is one of the few novels that truly captivated me from start to finish.  It is riveting, twisted but metamorphic. It consumed me, scared me out of my wits but in the end, it made me understand how important family is.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Author: Lisa Jewell

Genre: Mystery and Thriller

Length: 352 pages

Publisher: Atria Books (November 5, 2019)

ISBN-10: 1501190105

ISBN-13: 978-1501190100