St. Martin’s Press | 2021
Filed Under: Whispers of your dead husband
This is another podcast-meets-unreliable narrator thriller. It’s not my favourite I’ve read in that very specific new subgenre, but it was okay enough.
What this novel did do well was capture living in an abusive relationship and the trauma that it leaves behind. For me, that was the best part of the plot and I could have done without the podcast shit almost entirely. But that would make this an entirely different book, so ignore me.
Hannah’s husband was murdered while she was sleeping right beside him. She doesn’t remember what happened, but lots of people start to believe she’s guilty of his murder when, ten years later, a popular podcast starts looking at the case and questioning whether the right man has been convicted, Serial style.
It upends Hannah’s life because Oooo boy, the court of public opinion these days is filled with loud, entitled fucking idiots.
The narrative is heavily saturated in the unreliable narrator trope to the point that it became annoying. Like just cut out one thing next time. Just one! Maybe suddenly hearing your dead husband whisper your name does? We can start there.
“Omg she has mental health issues so she must be crazy and we shouldn’t believe anything she says.” Haven’t we had enough of this? The author takes the trope a step further and has Hannah consider that mental illness and being violent are hand-in-hand traits one can inherit.
But also, Hannah is very ugh and so maybe I’m just looking for things to complain about. And it is kind of sketchy that her husband was murdered right beside her. So maybe knowing that you would try not to make stupid choices that indict you even more. But this is Hannah we’re talking about. She does stupid things and is cagey with her loved ones for no logical reason. She really didn’t need that kind of help seeming suspish.
Hannah spends so much time ruminating on the same thoughts and ideas that the repetition really slows things down even though the book is not that long. Like, bitch, we get it. You don’t remember what happened to your husband.
Anyway, I didn’t really like her.
Because of the podcast, and also because of Hannah herself, her life starts to unravel. She’s suspended from her job as a therapist at an eating disorder clinic, her home is repeatedly vandalized, her child turns against her, her fiancé doubts her, her friends leave her, she’s seeing things and hearing things… I mean, it’s A LOT. You wouldn’t blame a person for not handling the stress very well.
The only person who wants anything to do with her is a former colleague – she’s opening up a new rehab-type of clinic in a rundown estate she renovating – and asks Hannah to come work for her.
This part of the novel brings up the possible ghosts storyline, hallucinations, catfishing, renovations, and a dark family history involving Hannah’s mother and grandmother.
I mean, I kept it all straight, but there are so many plot elements that it feels muddled, rushed but boring and over-the-top. The story doesn’t progress with a smooth flow, so the overall vibe is blah and repetitive. Like all this weird shit is happening, but Hannah is so bland and the character development is stagnant, that the pace doesn’t create any sparks.
The chapters reflecting on Hannah’s bad marriage with her dead husband were visceral and spoke to me from a place of experience, and the mystery of what happened to that dead husband was fucking interesting as hell and kept me reading this messy novel.
Not the best or worst book I’ve read this year. It’s just whatever.
The past haunts her. The present hunts her.
Conviction @ConvictionPod · 1m
The investigating officer: “I’ve seen a lot of homicides in the years since, but…that’s the one that keeps me up at night.”
The husband’s best man: “They had everybody fooled. Or at least, she did. But I always knew something was off.”
Hannah, the wife: “I told you. I don’t remember anything. I don’t know.”
That’s all to come, this season, on Conviction. Get ready for our most twisted season yet.
Ten years ago, Hannah’s husband was brutally murdered in their home, and she (conveniently) doesn’t remember a thing about that night. But the police charged someone else—a stranger—and put him away for life. And Hannah packed up her six-year-old daughter and left London behind.
But now her hard-won countryside peace is threatened. Conviction, a viral true crime podcast known for getting cases reopened and old verdicts overturned, has turned its attention to Hannah’s husband’s murder for its new season. They say police framed the man who was found guilty, and that Hannah has more suspicious secrets than just her memory loss: a history of volatility; citations at the clinic where she worked as a psychiatrist; dependencies on alcohol and pills; and a familicidal grandmother, locked away in a Gothic insane asylum until her death. As Hannah loses the trust of everyone she loves, the only person she feels she can confide in is a former colleague, Darcy, who’s come back into her life—but who may have motives of her own. But Hannah can’t tell even Darcy her deepest secret: that she’s still tormented by the memory of her husband and the crater he carved through her life.