“When you tip over the first domino,” she said, “you can’t always control how the rest fall.”
Christian White has earned his reputation as a master of the hook, the twist(s), and the surprise ending; and it’s that reputation — nay, more of a guarantee — that compelled me to keep reading through the first hundred pages of his latest, “Wild Place,” which (by design) uncoils conventionally (albeit rapidly) as it establishes its vast array of characters.
If one novel was ever emblematic of why I read thrillers, “The Wife and the Widow” is it. I burned through Christian White’s second novel in a day, completely suckered in by its considerable twists and turns, and suitably surprised — and left satisfied rather than feeling cheated or swindled, as is sometimes the case with novels of this type — by its final revelation.
White generates suspense from the simplest premise. When Melburnian Kate Keddie discovers her husband is missing, having lied to her about going to London for work, her search for answers takes her to Belport Island. A local resident on the islet, Abby Gilbin, is dealing with her own familial crisis, which threatens to devastate their lives. The two situations are connected, and White successfully teases the how and why for the novel’s duration.
“The Wife and the Widow” is told in alternating short, sharp chapters from both Kate and Abby’s point of view. Each ends on a cliffhanger, making it all but impossible to put the book down, as it builds to a crescendo when the two women finally meet, but not necessarily as you’d expect. It’s a tightly constructed, heck of a page-turner, constructed with incredible precision. White dispenses crucial plot twists like a magician working his magic on a starstruck crowd.
Pub Date: 24 September 2019
Pages: 384 pages