Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd

The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd
Release Date - March 6, 2018
Publisher Website - Harlequin
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages -  400 pages
My Rating - 3.5/5
**borrowed from the library**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
Twenty years ago, Dennis Danson was arrested and imprisoned for the brutal murder of a young girl. Now he’s the subject of a true-crime documentary that’s whipping up a frenzy online to uncover the truth and free a man who has been wrongly convicted.

A thousand miles away in England, Samantha is obsessed with Dennis’s case. She exchanges letters with him, and is quickly won over by his apparent charm and kindness to her. Soon she has left her old life behind to marry him and campaign for his release.

When the campaign is successful and Dennis is freed, however, Sam begins to discover new details that suggest he may not be quite so innocent after all.

But how do you confront your husband when you don’t want to know the truth?

The winner of the Daily Mail First Novel Competition, Amy Lloyd’s The Innocent Wife is gripping psychological suspense from a brilliant new voice in crime fiction.
Fans of true crime novels will instantly be drawn to The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd. It features a woman who falls for a man convicted of murdering a young girl. It also has loose comparisons to the West Memphis Three case and an enticing premise. It basically has all the elements of a really good mystery but I found it worked better as a study of these characters.

Sabrina is a woman who gives up pretty much everything in her life to go be with a man who she feels is wrongfully convicted of a murder. The press surrounding the case, the celebrity supporters, the huge documentary film all serve to create her fascination with the case and eventual interest in Dennis. I found Sabrina's character fascinating. She struggles with self esteem, insecurity, and other issues. She's incredibly brave at times and I admired that side of her. She also takes risks and does things without fully thinking them through which could tie back to her mental health issues. She, obviously, makes some really bad choices in this book and I ended up wanting to protect her from herself a lot of the time.

Dennis, for me, was never as charming as the novel says he is. I think if the reader had gotten to read some more of his letters, or experiencing them interacting more before his release, it would have helped. I also immediately distrusted him because of the synopsis. The book telegraphs pretty hard that he is not what he first appears to be. There could have been an interesting story of Dennis trying to readjust to a society that had changed greatly while he was imprisoned and the added mystery elements were mostly, for me, just a distraction.

There are large sections that are filled with the awkwardness of being married to someone that you don't really know. Dennis and Samantha would have put their 'best selves' forward in their letters and visits with one another. Interacting without all of the other background noise is entirely different and spending large amounts of time with someone is different than seeing them occasionally or communicating in words. The novel captures a heightened version of what I imagine it would be like to marry someone you've only gone on three or four dates with. I felt these elements of the story fascinating. The character elements of the story were much stronger than the actual plot and I felt like the story could have easily focused on this without the added twists.

The first half of the novel worked better for me than the latter half. The tension felt like it was building only to never crescendo. I was invested in the characters, particularly Samantha, which made the book much more gripping in the first half. I cared about what was happening to them, and the book lost a little of that when we knew where it was going to go in the second half.

This didn't work as well for me as a mystery but it did work better as a character study of Samantha. The plot beats are predictable, but enjoyable enough to have kept my interest. The end twist did not work for me at all because it felt disjointed from the rest of the novel. I expect that those who have an interest in true crime will especially enjoy this one though and do think it's worth the read.

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