Jess and Rob aren’t your typical divorcing couple. Their split was a mutual decision, and both moved on to new relationships. Hoping to make these big changes a little easier for their son to adapt to, they decided—along with new partners Ben and Carol and their respective children—to buy a pair of houses and live next door to one another. Everything seems perfect, until Jess receives an ominous message. When unsettling things begin to happen, Jess feels targeted… but by whom, and why?
This was almost a five star, highly recommended read for me. (More on that later.) The beginning of the story perfectly captures how optimistic Jess feels about the future, and what she hopes life will be like now that they’ve successfully embarked on blending their three families. Her inner dialogue about this is self-congratulatory and somewhat smug at times, but (thankfully) it was a tiny segment of the opening chapter and ended before Jess came off as an unlikable character.
The feel-good part of the story didn’t last much longer. Hours after they move in, Jess received a threatening message in a card (which mysteriously disappeared before she could show it to Ben), and she was hurt when she discovered Ben, Rob, and Carol decided (without her input) to take down the fence between the two houses. Things continued to go downhill from there, and Jess became increasingly suspicious of everyone around her.
This was my favorite part of the book—all those little things that seemed to have reasonable explanations kept happening, and I was heavily invested in trying to figure out who did it. I’d go back and reread the chapter (more than once, at times) to try to pinpoint who had the opportunity, and who was most likely to have been the culprit based on previous conversations and interactions with Jess. The closer I got to the end, the more invested I was, and when the Big Reveal came I was stunned—I’d considered every angle (I thought), but that one never occurred to me. The immediate aftermath of the Big Reveal was every bit as satisfying, especially one well-deserved moment of comeuppance for the culprit!
If the book had ended shortly after these events took place, I’d have given it 5 stars and tagged it as highly recommended… but it didn’t. The final chapter shifts perspective, with the Villain briefly taking over the narrative, and all the unanswered questions are given answers. Now, ordinarily, this is exactly the kind of thing I want to happen. Knowing who did it isn’t enough; I want to know why, as well.
Unfortunately, even though the answers were satisfying, the situation that led to them fell completely flat for me.
The setup felt contrived right from the start. All the mental gymnastics I’d gone through earlier trying to figure out the culprit’s identity were no longer necessary. I knew what was going on the instant the setup was introduced. All the mystery, nuance, and clever distractions that were such a treat for 99% of the book were suddenly, inexplicably gone. I was horribly disappointed. If I’d had a physical copy of the book in my hand, rather than my tablet, I’d have chucked it across the room in disgust. I had to content myself with raving to an empty room about convenient plot points and characters doing stupid things that didn’t make a lick of sense.
Given this strong reaction, and despite how much I loved the rest of the book, a three star rating is all I can give.
That said, I have a feeling most people will strongly disagree with my thoughts about the final chapter. Please bear that in mind if you’re considering reading this book. I loved 99% of it, so my dislike of the final 1% shouldn’t be given any undue emphasis.
I received an advance reading copy of this book courtesy of Bookouture via Netgalley.
Author: Rona Halsall
Title: The Wife Next Door
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Publication Date: October 12, 2022 by Bookouture
About the Book
Two houses. Two front doors. One family. And we’re going to make it work. Nothing can possibly go wrong…
Today we move into our new houses, right next door to each other. My ex-husband and me. He’s with someone else. So am I.
We’re still the best of friends. We’re making sure we’re not like every other separating couple. We know we will make it work. We’ve even knocked down the fences between the houses, so the children can all run between both homes.
But it seems not everyone likes this big, blended stepfamily. I try to ignore the scary note in the ‘new home’ card, and the red pen scrawled through my divorce paperwork. But I can’t pretend it’s all okay when I’m accused of hurting the person I love more than anyone in the world: my little boy.
Now I can’t help but think someone doesn’t like what’s happening under our two roofs. Or perhaps someone doesn’t like there being a wife next door…
What they don’t know is that they’re messing with the wrong person…
About the Author
RONA HALSALL is the author of Best Selling psychological thrillers published by Bookouture. She loves a puzzle to solve, so now she writes them… her challenge is to find domestic storylines with twists that keep her readers guessing right to the end.
She has been a bit of a nomad during her adult life, moving around the north of England. Then settled in Snowdonia, North Wales where she brought up her family while working as a business mentor. She now lives on the Isle of Man with her husband and two dogs.
She is an outdoorsy person and loves stomping up a mountain, walking the coastal paths and exploring the wonderful glens and beaches on the Island while she’s plotting her next book. She has three children and two step-children who are all grown up and leading varied and interesting lives, which provides plenty of ideas for new stories.
2 thoughts on “The Wife Next Door by Rona Halsall”
Fab review but too bad the ending felt so contrived!
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Thanks, Nicki! I read reviews that were full of praise for the way it ended, so I expect to be the lone ranger in that opinion. LOL
That’s the cool thing about reading, though, isn’t it? The words we read are the same, but our perceptions can be very different!
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