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Pretty Little Wife


Pretty Little Wife

PRETTY LITTLE WIFE by debut author Darby Kane starts with a unique twist. We know who killed Aaron Payne before we even open the book, as the tagline poses the question: “Shouldn’t a dead husband stay dead?” Lila Ridgefield did away with her handsome husband, a beloved high school teacher. There’s a problem, though. She has carefully staged his death, but the body is gone, along with his car and cell phone.

Lila is not surprised when Aaron’s best friend Brent, the high school's principal, is overly concerned when Aaron doesn’t show up for work. Her husband’s work ethic is such that he goes to teach even when he’s sick --- he never misses a day. His brother, Jared, is just as worried. While Lila doesn’t care for Brent, his ego or his expensive car (which he can’t afford), she genuinely likes Jared, who is warm and caring.

"Good writing and a plot that drives the action and builds the suspense make PRETTY LITTLE WIFE an excellent choice for fans of murder mysteries."

By contrast, both Lila and Aaron are cold and uncaring. They had dysfunctional childhoods and were damaged by events beyond their control. When Lila met Aaron, she felt that she had found someone with whom she would be comfortable, someone safe who wouldn’t disappoint her or expect emotional involvement she couldn’t provide. She didn’t get what she bargained for. But she accompanied Aaron when he decided to leave North Carolina and return to Ithaca, New York, so he could be closer to his brother.

Now that Aaron’s body has disappeared (did she fail to kill him?), Lila is not sure what to think. And a popular true crime podcast, “Gone Missing,” has picked up on the fact that there are three missing women in the Ithaca area. Is this related to Aaron’s disappearance? Lila knows better, or at least she thinks she does.

There are two strong women in this novel. Lila is a smart and capable attorney, and while the narrative is told in third person, we are privy to her thoughts and feelings. We also know who Ginny, the detective assigned to investigate Aaron’s disappearance, suspects. Both are intelligent ladies, and the respect they have for each other grows over the course of the story. While many readers won’t particularly like the main character, Lila does command respect as she struggles to make sense of the results of some poor decisions she has made, as well as matters beyond her control.

The mystery isn’t so much a question of who moved Aaron’s body, but why it was moved. And there are limited suspects, so we certainly have our suspicions early on. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t surprises. In fact, even after we’ve read the last page, Kane leaves us with some lingering questions about how much Lila knew and when she knew it. Good writing and a plot that drives the action and builds the suspense make PRETTY LITTLE WIFE an excellent choice for fans of murder mysteries.

Reviewed by Pamela Kramer on January 8, 2021

Pretty Little Wife
by Darby Kane