At the beginning of “The Younger Wife,” by Sally Hepworth, the reader knows the story doesn’t end well. In an opening flash-forward chapter, a guest describes a wedding occurring later that requires an ambulance on the scene soon after vows are taken. The guest catches glimpses of the groom’s daughter covered in blood as the crowd packed into the chapel leaves the aborted ceremony.
Months earlier, Stephen, a handsome and respected doctor, father of two adult daughters, proposed to his and his wife’s much younger interior designer, Heather. Stephen appears to be the very essence of stability that Heather lacked growing up. Since Heather has reinvented herself as a fashionable career woman, she is compelled to lie about her chaotic past.
Their marriage has to be postponed until Stephen’s divorce from Pam, his current wife, is complete. Heather has always liked Pam. Still, she struggles with Stephen’s and his daughters’ request that Pam attend the wedding, but it is not in Heather’s best interest to object.
Rachel, Stephen’s daughter, juggling a past that haunts her, accepts her parents’ choices until she discovers a significant amount of cash hidden inside her mother’s closet. All that she thought was true in her life changes when she begins unraveling clues she discovers there.
Hepworth has written a psychological mystery thriller, compelling because it interweaves a horrifying tale within an outer layer of normalcy. The families seem perfect: wealthy, successful, resourceful, and surrounded with luxury. All the characters are affected by an evil, sinister person whose charm and ability to talk over the truth eventually leads to destruction. Most of the characters are hiding secrets that belie their perfectionism.
This is gripping storytelling, mesmerizing from the beginning. It is the perfect book to read as summer begins. Deeper than a beach read, “The Younger Wife” will nonetheless provide entertaining seasonal fare for purveyors of crime, suspense, and stories of flawed families.
About the Author: Sally Hepworth also is the author of “The Good Sister,” “The Things We Keep,” “The Family Next Door,” and additional titles. She lives in Australia, the setting of “The Younger Wife.”