Audiobook Review: The First Mistake by Sandie Jones
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Thriller, Mystery
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Macmillan Audio (June 11, 2019)
Length: 9 hrs and 52 mins
Narrator: Nathalie Buscombe
You know it’s summer when there’s a gazillion interesting thrillers coming out and I want to read them all, and with The First Mistake being about the possibility of an unfaithful husband with a best friend involved, it looked to me like the perfect guilty pleasure beach read.
At the center of this novel is Alice, married to her second husband Nathan with whom she is running an interior design business and raising two daughters in their beautiful home. When her first husband Tom died in a skiing accident, Alice was devastated and became lost in her grief. Tom was the love of her life and losing him sent her into a tailspin so that she was committed into a mental health institution and was left with bad anxiety for years. But then, Nathan came along. Kind, patient and loving Nathan, who helped her get back on her feet. With his help, Alice was able to get her life back on track again and keep running the company that she started with Tom.
And then one day, Nathan needs to fly to Japan to negotiate a possible deal with a vendor. He wants Alice to go with him, since as the owner of the company, she should be part of the decision-making process. But still feeling haunted by her first husband’s death, Alice isn’t prepared to jet off to a faraway place, leaving her girls behind. Taking solace in her conversations with her best friend Beth, Alice reveals how she thinks her anxiety has been affecting her relationship with Nathan, and worse, she has been noticing some suspicious signs that he might be having an affair: an unfamiliar earring found in his car, dubious charges on his hotel bill in Japan, flowers addressed to another woman…. And then another blow: Alice stumbles upon evidence that her first husband Tom might not have been the man she thought he was. Dealing with possible betrayal from both the present and the past, Alice feels herself starting to lose control again and doesn’t know who she can trust.
I’m guessing cheating spouses isn’t exactly an uncommon theme when it comes to domestic suspense, though I appreciated how Sandie Jones tried to tackle it from a different direction. Not going to go into specifics, of course, though I will say she leads the reader to think one thing, and then pulls the rug from under us when we least suspect. Most of this book is told from Alice’s perspective, though when we get to the surprise POV, that’s when the plot thickens, as they say. That said, the story felt a bit far-fetched at times, pushing the limits of believability—and you really had to buy into the characters or else many of their actions will feel forced.
Speaking of which, as the protagonist, Alice holds her own marvelously, though I think she’s a tough character to relate to until you progress far enough in the book to get the full picture of who she is. Both Alice and her best friend Beth have been damaged by certain events in their past, and it shows in the way they approach their problems. I didn’t find either them to be all that likeable, though I also believe this is by design. While it was difficult to connect with them on an intellectual level (there were so many things I would not have done if I had been in their shoes) I was still nonetheless able to understand where their motivations were coming from.
I also enjoyed the second half of the novel a lot more than the first, which is not surprising given the way this mystery was structured. Once we get the second POV, I think that’s when the dam broke and everything started coming together. Of course, the author also saves a bunch of earth-shattering surprises for the final few chapters, when the shocking twists and revelations just didn’t seem to end. It would have been nice if the pacing had been better balanced, because I found the first half of the book to be somewhat of a slow burn, though at the end of the day, I agree that for a thriller it’s best to go out with a bang.
All told, The First Mistake was a quick and entertaining thriller, and I wish I could have provided a lot more detail in my review, but when it comes to this genre that’s almost impossible without revealing any spoilers. As always, it’s best to go into these types of books blind if you’re curious! I had a lot of fun with this one, and I would recommend it if you’re looking for a light and easy thriller-suspense to kick back with this summer.
Audiobook Comments: I think it would have been more effective and mysterious had they gone with two narrators for novel, but nevertheless, Nathalie Buscombe did a fantastic job as narrator. Even when the rapidly fluctuating emotions of the characters presented a bit of a challenge, I think she handled the voices well and made them feel convincing.