"The Wife Upstairs" | Reviewed by Chris Stuckenschneider
Something’s rotten in Thornfield Estates, a ritzy subdivision in Birmingham, Alabama. Two women, Blanche and Bea, longtime friends have gone missing, believed to have drowned after a boating accident on a lake. Perhaps they’d been drinking and one fell overboard and the other rushed to the rescue. The disappearance is just one of the conundrums in “The Wife Upstairs,” a who-dun-it by Rachel Hawkins.
Prior to meeting Blance and Bea, readers are introduced to Jane, a newcomer to Birmingham, a 23-year-old of dubious character, a former foster kid who works at a coffee shop and walks dogs for the wealthy of Thornfield Estates. Jane supplements her income with sticky fingers, lifting one bauble or expensive trinket after another from her clients. Climbing the ladder and being moneyed are Jane’s primary goals.
When Jane meets Eddie Rochester, Bea’s grieving husband, she’s immediately taken in. Before long Eddie buys a dog and Jane is turning heads and making tongues wag as she walks the rescued pup around Thornfield. Jane is thrilled that handsome, wealthy Eddie is smitten with her and proceeds to emulate Bea, who enjoyed fame and fortunate with her successful business Southern Manors. But Jane is living a lie, withholding secrets and a past crime from Eddie.
In actuality, she and Eddie are more alike than different in the baggage they bring to their new relationship—evidence of Eddie’s discretion is locked away in a room at the top of the stairs in his McMansion.
This pageturner features other unsavory characters who might have had something to do with the boating accident—consider Tripp Ingraham, Blanche’s husband, a third in his well-to-do family, a charmer if he’d just stay off the sauce.
This debut novel by Hawkins follows 11 books she's written for young readers, and she’s shines with “The Wife Upstairs.” It’s addictive, entertaining and features a bevy of dysfunctional folks without a heroic bone in their bodies.