Published by MIRA on November 26th 2019
I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Gwen Landon—poster woman for perfect wife, mother, and suburban bliss—is found brutally bludgeoned to death behind her Floridian McMansion. Beautiful and beloved by her community, Gwen makes an unlikely victim. But just a scratch below the surface of her perfectly curated world reveals one far more sinister. When looking back over the six months leading up to her death, the question of, “who would do this?” quickly shifts to, “who wouldn’t?”
Commercially successful food blogger and mother of three, Nora Holliday never imagined she would have the nerve, let alone time, to get involved an affair. Trapped in an unhappy marriage, she does whatever it takes to keep it all together. But when Nora runs into Gwen Landon's husband at a hotel in Orlando, his easy kindness and warmth proves too tempting to resist. As their affair spirals dangerously out of control, it seems things can’t get more complicated—until Gwen turns up dead.
This was such a great domestic suspense read and points to why I’ve come to love the genre. Well-intentioned people find themselves in giving in to temptation and the ramifications can be costly. At least for the 5 people most impacted by a breach of trust. Following an opening that teases to the reader, we stand by and watch how three families implode. One great thing about the story is the many voices we get; Nora and her husband Carter, Josh, his wife Gwen, and daughter Abby.
Margot Hunt does a wonderful job showing us the family dynamics. I was immediately drawn in, not to just the salaciousness of the affair, but to all the dynamics between parents and children. Nora and Josh are no strangers to each other when they run into each other out of town, at a hotel, and their attraction is abuzz with the warm fuzzies that are often at the core of new relationships. When Josh admits to feeling restless and the not so great state of his marriage.
What I love about this story is the way I felt conflicted, but it was not about the connection that Josh and Nora share. Once I got to know their spouses, I saw a glimmer of why I was happy for their involvement. But Hunt doesn’t let us off easy. Most of us know that the bright and shiny affection they feel could easily wear off, but there is just something about these two together and the foreboding notion of what transpired in the prologue.
Margot Hunt’s writing is flawless ad her storytelling skills are well-honed. If you enjoy any type of suspense, this a read I highly recommend. The domestic nature just make it all the more relatable. As for the close of the book, well I’m not sure the story is over. Hunt makes a case that crazy is easily passed on and the promise of a follow-up book is instilled.
~Review by Cyndi
Other than the woman’s blood-covered body splayed facedown in the grass, it could have been any typical upscale Floridian backyard.
There was the ubiquitous pool with a water fountain feature, a patio furnished with both a dining set and outdoor sectional couch, and an enormous gas grill capable of cooking hamburgers by the dozen. A large pergola with a tropical vine trained over it covered part of the patio. The dining area was shaded by a black-and-white-striped awning. It was the very picture of suburban domestic bliss. It could have been the set for a commercial advertising anything from laundry detergent to allergy medicine.
Again, except for the dead body.
The area had already been taped off. The first officers on the scene appeared with an ambulance in response to a frantic 911 call placed by the woman’s daughter. The paramedics had assessed the situation, and quickly determined that the woman was dead. The fact that the back of her head had been bashed in with what looked like a paving stone, conveniently dropped next to her prone body, made it immediately clear that it had not been a natural death. The responding officers called the sheriff, who responded by sending in a full investigative team. The medical examiner was now doing a preliminary examination of the body, while police officers combed the area for additional evidence. Two detectives, Mike Monroe and Gavin Reddick—separated by twenty years and sixty pounds—were overseeing the operation, standing at the edge of the patio under the shade of the pergola. It was the third week in April, but this was South Florida and the temperature had already climbed into the low nineties.
“The paving stone came from the stack out in the front yard. They were delivered last week by the company who’s installing the driveway,” Detective Reddick said. He was the younger of the two men and had a wiry frame and angular face.
“Weapon of convenience. Suggests it wasn’t premeditated,” Detective Monroe said. He had a ruddy complexion and a full head of thick dark hair, swept back off his face. A strand never moved out of place, even in a strong wind.
“Plus he dropped the weapon, rather than taking it with him. Probably panicked.”
“Could be a she,” Monroe said mildly.
Reddick shrugged. “Blunt force trauma to the back of the head? You know the stats. Overwhelming likelihood that it’s a man, and probably someone the victim was intimately involved with. Husband, maybe a boyfriend.”
“The husband was with the daughter when she called it in.”
“Doesn’t mean he didn’t do it, and then had her place the call.”
“No, it doesn’t.”
The family had been sequestered indoors, both to keep them out of the way, and so that the officers waiting in the house with them could observe anything they did or said. Other than the husband, there was a daughter in her early twenties and a teenage son. The daughter was reportedly distraught, while the husband and son had both been eerily quiet. It was possible they were in shock.
“Do we have an ID on the victim?” Reddick asked.
“It’s her house,” Monroe grunted.
“Yeah, but I like doing things the official way, you know? I’s dotted, t’s crossed, all of that. Building a case, basic detective work.”
Despite the chilling scene in front of them—the woman’s body still sprawled on the grass, the back of her head a pulpy, bloody mess—the corner of Monroe’s mouth quirked up in a half smile. “Sure, kid, tell me all about basic detective work. I’ve only been doing this for, what…thirty-two years now? The husband ID’d her. Victim is Gwen Landon, age forty-nine. Married, mother of two. Husband said she hasn’t had any recent conflict with anyone.”
“Other than the person who caved in the back of her head with a paving stone,” Reddick pointed out.
“Wouldn’t be the first time a husband didn’t know his wife as well as he thought he did.”
“Possible. But there’s another possibility, too.”
Reddick turned to look at his partner. His eyes were small and dark, and he had a habit of squinting when he concentrated intently on something.
“The husband is a liar,” Reddick said.