Tuesday 23 January 2018

Thriller: The Loving Husband by Christobel Kent

Sphere, €18.99

Christobel Kent's Loving Husband
Christobel Kent's Loving Husband

Anne Cunningham

Fran Hall's baby son wakes her shortly after two in the morning, and as she hurries off to tend to him, she realises that her husband is not in bed beside her. Oddly, she had felt him there not long beforehand and they had engaged in a rare, but half-asleep, session of lovemaking. Her husband is, in fact, lying dead - gutted - outside in the yard of their tumbledown cottage in the Norfolk Fens. As she attempts to absorb her shocking discovery, she also begins to take in the fact that she is the prime suspect for her husband's murder. Forensics prove he died hours before 2am. And this is all in the opening pages…

In a finely-crafted series of flashbacks, we learn that Fran, who is now a beleaguered but determined bundle of nerves, used to be a successful magazine journalist, a party girl and - most importantly - a woman with friends. But marriage, two kids, and setting up home in the middle of nowhere has left Fran essentially friendless. And as the history of the marriage unfolds, it appears that this is just what her husband Nathan had wanted. Her closest friend Jo never much liked him, anyway. But this doesn't explain why he was so subtly intent on isolating his family. And why did Fran, once an independent, successful and ambitious urbanite, allow herself to settle for such seclusion?

This excellent thriller not only exposes us to the fears, big and small, of our reluctant heroine, but forces the reader to examine the "things we do for love"; not the obvious sacrifices that occur within a functioning marriage, but the more subtle surrenders that are made to keep the peace, to protect us from the inevitable reproach of our loved ones. Tense, dense, extremely well-plotted and beautifully written, this is a fine example of the Domestic Noir genre.

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