Beware the Woman
June 15, 2023

Book Review

Beware the Woman

reviewed by Valerie J. Brooks | Goodreads


If Gaslight, Rebecca and Get Out were film edited together, you might create something like Megan Abbott’s BEWARE THE WOMAN. Abbott, known for drilling deep into women’s interior lives, gives us Jacy, the three-month pregnant wife of Jed.

The creepiness starts immediately with the couple heading to Michigan’s upper peninsula and Jed’s father’s home. On the long drive, interior voices urge Jacy to turn around. Even Jed wants to nix the trip—or was that a dream? Lulled in and out of sleep from the long drive, Jacy dreams of a scary childhood character called The Murderer. Before we’re even at Dr. Ash’s big house with its little cabin in the woods, no cell service or Wifi, a mysterious housekeeper, and a threatening mountain lion, we’re already screaming at them to go home.

But this thriller is yet to prime us for the real threat. Dr. Ash, a retired country doctor, seems quite fond of Jacy. Mrs. Brandt, the housekeeper, feeds Jacy an odd type of tea and Cornish pasties, the kind miners used to eat. The crust of the pie, Mrs. Brandt tells her, was crimped into a handle so it could be thrown away after the pasty was eaten. That would keep the miners from poisoning themselves from the arsenic on their hands.

Jacy is at first charmed. But after she experiences a scare with the pregnancy, she finds herself trapped there. Why won’t they let her go? The fear increases when the hard-wired phone goes out. Guns are pulled from their hiding places. Hunts take place for the mountain lion. Jed regresses, becoming a boy again under his father’s thumb, and takes off to town to drink with old friends, leaving Jacy in the care of his father. Jacy is alone except for calls with her mother when the landline works. When Jacy overhears secret conversations between Dr. Ash and someone else, she thinks at first they are talking about the mountain lion when they refer to “a very secretive animal.” But as she puts the pieces together, she realizes they are talking about her. Something is terribly wrong, and she has no one to help her.

As Jacy repeatedly tries to leave, the story drags a bit as we wait to find out why she’s being held against her will. What secrets do Dr. Ash, his professional buddy Dr. Hicks, Mrs. Brandt, and another character Hicks keep and why? And where is Jed in all of this? One of the best characters–and we only meet her in conversations over the phone—is Jacy’s mother. Jacy can even hear her mom’s strong advice in her head, and her mom doesn’t hold back.  

 Abbott has created a creepy gothic-thriller-horror story. Her stellar writing gives us lines like “a toothpaste-white Chevy,” and she paints a brilliant setting of an old Welsh mine. But at times, the overuse of gothic cliches seem more laughable than adding to the fear: the “Bucket of Blood” Irish bar, Bridalveil Falls, and a woman in a long white gown. In this case, less would have been more.

Thanks to Penguin Group Putnam, NetGalley and the author for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

Beware the Woman is available at:

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