MIRA | 2017
“They built a life on lies.”
Okay, if you say so.
I was expecting a dark domestic noir thriller, and instead what I got was two assholes who married each other and could have avoided a lot of shit if they’d just, I don’t know, talked like people who got married for a reason.
Failing that, try therapy.
Their marriage issues were all tales as old as time. Nothing really shocking – he has a wandering eye, she can be cold and distant. They don’t communicate well. Sometimes they love each other, sometimes they want to chuck plates at each other’s throats. Big deal, that’s marriage for a lot of people.
What’s not life for most of us, however, is the amount of money these two assholes have. Or the death of their child. Or the sinister events that engulf their lives very quickly.
Much of the more mundane “crumbling marriage” tropes take place in an over-sized, fantastical world of good looks, success, wealth and travel – extremes that are not realistic for the general population. So, somewhere between the banal (for the genre) issues of their marriage and the over-the-top baseline for their way of life, is where you will find me still deciding whether or not this book resonated with me.
I binge-read it. I would call it a page-turner, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s good. You know?
Ethan and Sutton, both successful authors, both gorgeous, both rich, both author-famous, living in a completely renovated masterpiece of a home, can’t figure out how to get their marriage back on track after the death of their young child. In the face of a shared tragedy, some couples come together, others fall apart. Ethan and Sutton fall apart. She has a bit of a mental breakdown. He cheats, again. They can’t connect; resentment and anger brews. Sutton leaves, nothing but a note left for Ethan telling him not to look for her.
Because, I guess, she thinks Ethan is dangerous??? Nothing either character sheds light on would lead one to believe this was a dangerous, toxic marriage. They were just two assholes who couldn’t figure out how to talk to each other.
I’m sorry, but yawnnnnn. I get enough of that in my own marriage counselling.
The book is divided, roughly, into two parts: Ethan’s perspective, then Sutton’s.
We open with Ethan. Sutton is gone, but where and why? He’s confused. He knows he’s not the best husband but he loves her, thought things were getting better blah blah blah. In the course of trying to figure out what happened to Sutton, he does and says a bunch of stupid shit (of course) that lead the police to believe Sutton hasn’t just disappeared, but that he’s killed her. Evidence mounts, evidence he never would have suspected. He has no idea what’s going on – and the reader believes him.
I stayed up until almost three in the morning reading Ethan’s part of the book. This first half was soooo gooooood. It was laying breadcrumbs, setting up characters, creating some interesting cliffhangers and unknowns, suspense was building with all the clues and evidence.
…and then it stopped. And we switch to Sutton’s point of view, which was a steep decline in action. It felt so disjointed, in term of pacing and plotting.
It takes more than half of Sutton’s chapters to ramp things up again. And in this time, as a reader, I hated her more and more. I know her child died – so sorry for her loss – but since when is that an excuse to blow up your own life and your husband’s? She was an unsympathetic character – making things up, having extreme reactions to things normal people deal with every day, and exaggerating claims of abuse, like it’s a thing women can just throw around casually.
Ellison creates a sordid past for Sutton, which I suppose was meant to make her more understandable – but it came across as convoluted and far-fetched in the context of every other ridiculous thing Sutton had done up to this point. JUST GET A DIVORCE, BITCH.
What really doesn’t sit right with me…
Click for Spoiler…is that Ivy wanted to ruin both Ethan and Sutton’s lives. She goes through the trouble of murdering an innocent stranger to frame Ethan for Sutton’s murder, to put away for good. But then she frames Sutton for a murder in Paris? Never considering that the Paris police would eventually reveal that Sutton was alive, therefore releasing Ethan as a free man? (Which is exactly what happened.)And then after alllllllll the bullshit Ivy pulled, all the hate…she’s not even actually who she thought she was? It was all for nothing?
Are you fucking kidding me!?
That’s not a twist ending, it’s bullshit.
I did like the story thread where a bad review on “Stellar Reads” (wink wink) sends Sutton into a tailspin; commenting on the review and eventually stalking the reviewer. I’ve heard of things like that happening around here. HILARIOUS.
Listen, I’m a J.T. Ellison fan. Have been for a decade. But…meh.
The first half of the book was A+, but the second half was *fart noises* and the ending gave me a headache. At a certain point, it just lacks credible reasoning and motivation.
But, Ellison can stalk me if she wants.
They built a life on lies
Sutton and Ethan Montclair’s idyllic life is not as it appears. They seem made for each other, but the truth is ugly. Consumed by professional and personal betrayals and financial woes, the two both love and hate each other. As tensions mount, Sutton disappears, leaving behind a note saying not to look for her.
Ethan finds himself the target of vicious gossip as friends, family and the media speculate on what really happened to Sutton Montclair. As the police investigate, the lies the couple have been spinning for years quickly unravel. Is Ethan a killer? Is he being set up? Did Sutton hate him enough to kill the child she never wanted and then herself? The path to the answers is full of twists that will leave the reader breathless.
*Migrated review: Originally posted on Goodreads in November 2017