Charlotte ended her marriage for a man who didn’t exist…
She has everything money can buy. She’s a good wife, but sometimes she feels trapped. And when she starts an affair with a stranger called Ewan, her life changes in ways she can’t begin to understand. Ewan breaks apart her marriage piece by piece and then he just disappears. He uses a fake name and leaves no trace behind; it’s like he doesn’t even exist.
Someone did this to her and now they’re waiting for her to unravel, watching her every move. She can’t trust anyone, not even herself – not even the people she loves.
THERE WAS NOWHERE TO RUN, NO ESCAPE FROM THE TRUTH. I JUMPED AS I HEARD A DISTANT, PERSISTENT WAIL. SIRENS APPROACHED. THE SCREECHING GREW LOUDER. I OPENED MY EYES AND LIGHTS CAME ON IN THE BIG HOUSE BEHIND ME. THE BACK DOOR STOOD OPEN. MY ONLY WITNESS FRAMED IN THE GLARE OF THE KITCHEN LIGHT, BLURRED BY THE RAINSTORM […] UNAWARE OF THE BLACK SHAPE SLOWLY GETTING TO ITS FEET IN THE PIT BEHIND ME, I STARTED TO WALK TOWARDS THE FIRST POLICE CAR.
When I say I have been busy with work, I mean it. The latter half of last year and January were jam-packed and February’s set to be even busier. Evenings are exclusively reserved for reading up on blockchain (for work – I promise I won’t go all cryptoinfluencer on you!) sipping copious amounts of gin and retiring to bed at 9pm like a grandma. As a result, losing myself in a good book has taken a back seat. However, Samantha Lee Howe’s The Stranger in Our Bed just changed all that.
I made the mistake of starting during my lunch break, thinking I’d sneak in a cheeky chapter or two. By the time 5:30pm rolled around, I was desperate to return to the saga that is Charlotte and Tom’s marriage. By 11:30pm, I was finished. I completely devoured it. People are not exaggerating when they said that this book is impossible to put down – it really is! Seldom does a book command your full concentration the way that The Stranger in Our Bed does. You become obsessed and unable to tear yourself away. I spent much of my work afternoon desperate to dive right back in. Much like our female protagonist, Charlotte, I needed answers.
Howe’s novel is the a dark and deeply twisted domestic noir that takes several twists and turns. From the blurbs and teaser materials online, I had thought this was going to have a central ‘catfish’ thriller plotline. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s actually an intense psychological thriller focusing on Charlotte and her complex, often stifling marriage to businessman Tom. ‘Catfish’ Ewan, who our narrator falls for, is positioned as the catalyst to the pair’s marriage beginning to spiral but there are deeper and darker secrets closer to home.
While engrossed in the disturbing family drama, you don’t spend a lot of the novel caring for any particular character. Ewan is so secondary and perhaps a bit underdeveloped by Howe that it made it hard to entirely understand why the narrator had fallen so hard for him. He was very sub-plot for me. If this were a movie, he’d have approximately five minutes of screen time. However, Tom and Charlotte are very interesting and complicated characters. Howe does a great job at misleading the reader. You can go from loathing Tom, starting to warm to him and then right back to despising him within a second. The same applies a bit to Charlotte. One can go from sympathising with her to complete frustration. The ending felt a tad rushed, but perhaps that’s because I’d completely zoomed through the book.
I wholeheartedly accept that the plot is a bit out there. It will be a bit far-fetched for some but what a ride it was! A great read to start the year with – I have my fingers crossed that more books this year can capture my attention and tear me away from after hours work thoughts the way The Stranger in Our Bed did. It was twisted, exciting, addictive, thrilling, suspenseful and it truly did keep me guessing. It’s everything you could want in a psychological thriller!