Thriller Thursday: The End of Her by Shari Lapena
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: 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Mystery, Suspense
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books (July 30th, 2019)
Length: 335 pages
The End of Her is my third Shari Lapena novel, and while I didn’t think it was her best, it nonetheless hooked me and fed my addiction for her stories. The plot follows several seemingly unrelated groups of characters, whose connections will be revealed later, but the main focus is on Stephanie and Patrick, a young couple from upstate New York who have just welcomed twin girls. Unfortunately, both babies are colicky, crying from evening until late into the night. A stay-at-home mom, Stephanie feels she is at her wit’s end, and Patrick, a partner at an architectural firm, also finds his work performance suffering due lack of sleep.
The last thing this poor couple needs is even more trouble, but that’s exactly what turns up in the form of Erica, the best friend of Patrick’s first wife Lindsey, who had died years before in a tragic accident. But now, Erica has tracked Patrick down with the intent to extort him, claiming to know what really happened. Unless he paid her, Erica has threatened to go to the police with the story that Patrick had in fact murdered his first wife, making it look like an accident. Knowing that Erica is an expert on manipulation, Patrick is terrified, having no doubt that she can make it sound convincing. Of course, it doesn’t help that he had put out a life insurance policy on Lindsey just before she died— or the damning fact that he and Erica had been sleeping together at the time. This last tidbit, Erica promises to tell his current wife if Patrick doesn’t pony up the cash, and remind Stephanie that “once a cheater, always a cheater.”
To head off the disaster, Patrick decides to come clean to Stephanie himself, preemptively telling her about the affair. However, on the death of his first wife, Patrick is adamant that it was an accident, insisting that it was all part of the lie made up by Erica to get at their money. Disappointed in her husband for his past involvement with this crazy woman, Stephanie is nonetheless supportive of him, believing his side of the story. But after refusing to pay, neither of them was prepared for Erica to actually follow through on her threat, getting the police to reopen Lindsey’s case. Suddenly, all of Patrick’s past indiscretions are laid bare for everyone to see, jeopardizing his career and the life he has built. Devastated that her husband has been keeping secrets from her, Stephanie’s trust in him is also eroding. She knows Patrick isn’t perfect and he’s made plenty of mistakes, but could he really be capable of murder?
The End of Her asks the same question that many other domestic suspense thrillers about married couples do: Just how well do you know your spouse? In Stephanie’s case, apparently not very well. An absolute terror of a woman storms into her life, blowing to hell the notion that she and Patrick have the perfect marriage. But while readers are meant to despise Erica with a passion, and to sympathize with the protagonists whose lives she is trying ruin, Shari Lapena isn’t about to let Patrick off the hook either. Sure, he may seem sincere, and come on, how many people can honestly claim they’ve not made any dumb choices in the past? And yet, as the lies start piling up, you can’t help but start to wonder. Either Patrick has got to be the unluckiest person in the world to be caught up in all these coincidences that make him look hella suspicious, or quite simply put, he is hiding something. And for all that Erica is an evil conniving bitch, she genuinely believes she is doing Stephanie a favor by outing Patrick as a murderer, so there appears to be a part of her not solely motivated by the money. In the end, readers are torn back and forth between whether Patrick might be guilty or innocent, and I loved the way the author kept this part of the mystery going until the very end.
In terms of criticisms though, the plotting was kind of a mess. That’s because Erica, disgusting piece of human scum that she is, is also running a racket on two other couples at the same time (related to the main storyline, but I won’t say how) and every so often there would be these other perspectives randomly inserted into the narrative. Certain developments also felt too convenient, not to mention the moments where I felt the characters were deliberately written to be the stupidest people on the planet in order for them to miss the obvious solutions dangling in front of their faces. And then there was that ending. Ugh. I’m sure in the author’s mind it was a fiendishly clever example of poetic justice meant to be her mic drop moment, but in reality, it just came across as horribly contrived, leaving me feeling cheated. After all, endings are so important when it comes to thrillers, and I hate to say it, but this one just didn’t stick the landing.
Still, right up to that point, this was a rocking good book. The End of Her may have had its hiccups, but nevertheless it kept me engaged and turning the pages through the whole thing. I’m still a huge fan of Shari Lapena, who remains on my must-read authors list, and I can’t wait to check out what she writes next.