I heard this one had Gone Girl vibes, and it sort of did, but I thought it was much closer to It’s Always the Husband.
In the beginning of Pretty Little Wife, by Darby Kane, Lila Ridgefield seems a bit cold, especially to people who know her husband, the outgoing and charming high school teacher and coach. When her husband, Aaron, never shows up for work one day, silent Lila finds herself pushed into the spotlight, which could reveal her past and her present secrets.
The college town of Ithaca, NY, fills with with anxiety and theories about Aaron’s disappearance, but actually, this is not the first unexplained, unsolved missing person in the area. Three disappearances over recent years, as well as the beloved teacher’s secret out-of-class activities, a huge inheritance, and Lila’s own reasons for changing her name and never mentioning her biological family all start to come out. At first, Lila seems to be pointing the detectives to the other disappearances solely to take the spotlight away from herself, but then the plot twists start coming.
It took me a minute to like Lila. She was a bit too poised and too cold, so I understood why the others were suspicious of her. (Also, there were a couple references to her unmentionable past, and I was afraid we were getting the Unspeakable Secret plot device, my unfavorite way of building thriller tension.) So I understood why the detectives focused on her, and when she began to have surprising allies in her boss, her nosy neighbor, and her former coworker, I was intrigued. Since many people like her, there has to be more to her.
There are so many possible motives and so many secrets in this one, which leads to so many twists. I think because there wasn’t a huge buildup to one big OMG PLOTTWIST!!! moment, I liked it better. Just lots and lots of reveals, from basically everyone, setting up a tense story when no one is really how they seem at first. Without spoilers, I liked how single-minded and smart Lila was. I think we often read about men who are like this, but rarely a woman characters who’s completely focused on accomplishing what she needs to do, and doesn’t care about being nice.
This book is a little bit gross for me, because there’s a reference to autopsy findings, but it wasn’t too bad. Mostly we just get the information, and by that time, curiosity won out over squick.
Pretty Little Wife is a tense, twisty thriller, with shocking reveals all the way to the end. The “pretty little wife” is a determined, ruthless and memorable character.