The Replacement Wife
reviewed by Carolyn Scott
Josh seems to be a man who is unlucky when it comes to love. His first wife Candace died when she fell and hit her head after they’d only been married for five years. Now his fiancé Abby has disappeared.
Josh claims she must have got cold feet about the wedding and run away. However, Elisa, married to Josh’s older brother Harris, and Abby’s best friend and can’t accept that Abby would cut all ties to her too and not answer her calls or emails. No one, not even her own parents, has heard from Abby for seven months and Elisa is worried that something bad has happened to her. When she finds out the supposedly grieving Josh has a new girlfriend, who he has been dating for months, her suspicions that Josh is involved in Abby’s disappearance are fuelled even further.
The problem is that no one will listen to Elisa’s concerns. A year ago, she was involved in a very traumatic shooting at the hospital where she worked and since then has been prone to panic attacks and scared to leave the house. She often feels anxious and her brain feels foggy even though her medication shouldn’t be having that effect by now. Harris has blinkers on when it comes to younger brother Josh, especially when Elisa’s questions him about Abby’s disappearance. Josh is extremely talented at deflecting blame onto others as well gaslighting Elisa, making her out to be confused to the point where she also starts to doubt her own perception of events. This all makes her into a very unreliable narrator and leaves the reader wondering what is really going on.
Worried for the safety of Josh’s new girlfriend Rachel, Elisa is determined to continue looking for Abby, compelled to find out the truth about what happened to her best friend.
Although, the premise for the novel is interesting, the pacing is slow and the plot drags somewhat as Elisa’s is the main voice we hear and it does become rather repetitive. An occasional chapter from an unknown narrator is intriguing and alerts us to the fact that someone else has plans for Josh. Although considering himself a ladies’ man and a smooth operator, Josh is clearly unlikeable and untrustworthy to the reader, so it is no surprise when further secrets about his past are revealed in the plot. While the ending tied up a lot of threads, it felt sudden and contrived and not all that convincing. Overall, the novel is an entertaining mystery and could make a good holiday read.
With thanks to William Morrow & Custom House and Netgalley for a copy to read. Publication expected December 28, 2021.