I would like to start by thanking Net Galley, Park Row and the author for allowing me to read an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.
I enjoy when an author manages to make the setting of a book come alive so that it feels like an additional character and The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica does this in spades. According to the Maine Island Coastal Registry, there are 3,166 islands off the coast of Maine and our story opens with the Foust family relocating from Chicago to one of these unnamed coastal islands. Accessed only by ferry, the island feels isolated, bleak and ominous right from the beginning which sets the stage for a dark and twisty story.
It is apparent from the beginning that Sadie Foust is not happy about the move from Chicago although she acknowledges that the family is in need of a fresh start. As an emergency room doctor, Sadie worked long hours in Chicago. Her husband Will is a college professor who might have been spending a bit too much time with some of his students. Their 14-year old son Otto, a gifted artist, was expelled from his former school and finally, Will’s niece, Imogen, has just lost her mother to suicide in the very island house they are moving into – and she isn’t coping well. The only one who seems to arrive on the island with no baggage is 7-year old Tate.
Things go from bad to worse when a neighbour gets murdered and all eyes on the small island community turn towards the newest additions as the most likely suspects.
This was my first time reading this author and while I enjoyed both the writing style of Mary Kubica and the atmospheric setting she created, my enjoyment ended quickly once I got to know the characters. Told largely from Sadie’s point of view, the story unfolds at an awkward pace. I think we are supposed to feel a gradual unravelling as Sadie gets pulled deeper into the murder mystery however, the unravelling does not feel gradual at all. It quickly becomes apparent that Sadie is an unreliable narrator which to me, makes it not only difficult to believe that she is a medical doctor but difficult to believe she stands any chance of solving the mystery. I found the scenes that involved her medical practice took me out of the story as I couldn’t reconcile “Sadie the doctor” with “Sadie our main character”. Often described as standoffish and cold, Sadie’s actions contradict this by being emotional and rash.
Imogen, the character that I was most interested in given that she was the reason the family moved to the island in the first place, was under-developed. Her dialogue was unrealistic and over-the-top, she appears in short, disjointed scenes and yet is pivotal to both the beginning and end of the story.
There are three other points of view in the book – one that made one of the twists very obvious, one that confused me and one that comes in at the end of the book to deliver a truly surprising twist in the story.
In spite of the terrific job the author did in creating a really creepy and suffocating atmosphere, this one didn’t work for me. There are some plot devices used that I can’t go into here because they would spoil the story but they are some of my least favourite “tropes”, the characters are under-developed and the dialogue just isn’t believable most of the time. This one might work for fans of Kubica’s work but if you are a first time reader of this author, you might want to consider giving this one a pass and picking up one of her other books.