The Loving Husband by Christobel Kent (2016)

I was very taken with Christobel Kent’s last book, I meant to explore her backlist, but before I could do that a new book appeared and I had to read it.

It’s a psychological thriller, asking questions about how well we really know the people who share our lives, and about what happens when we don’t tell ourselves the truth.

Fran Hall and her husband Nathan lived in a farmhouse on the edge of the Fens with their two children. She used to have a job she loved and a group of friends, but she left all that behind when her new husband wanted to move out of London, so that his children could grow up in the same part of the country that he had. She understood that, but there life in their new home wasn’t what she hoped it might be, and she felt horribly alone when his work took him away from home for log periods of time.

One night, when he is home, Fran is woken by the crying of her baby. When she returns to bed she realises that Nathan is gone, and she senses that something is terribly wrong.  She goes outside to investigate and she stumble over her husband’s body in a nearby field.

She can’t understand – she really has no idea – why anyone would have at reason to kill him.

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Over the next few days Fran struggles to cope, but she has to carry on for the sake of her friends and because she has almost nobody to turn to. She realises that she has lost touch with so many people. And she realises that there were many sides to her husband’s life that she knew nothing about; that she hardly knew him at all.

It is clear that the police believe that she has killed her husband. She understood why they might think that, and she found it very difficult that to show that she did not. Circumstances – and people – seemed to be conspiring against her.

The two stories – one belonging to Fran and one belonging to the police – were finely balanced.

Was she reliable or unreliable? Were the police right or wrong? I thought about those questions a great deal, my opinion kept shifting, and it was very late in the day that I made up my mind.

It was clear that Fran had been keeping some secrets of her own. That muddied the waters, but Christobel Kent drew her character and her situation so well that I felt that I really was involved. I had to keep turning the pages. I had to find out what happened.

I loved the atmosphere she created, the cleverness of her plotting, and the way she suggested possibilities as the story moved forward.

That is not to say that this is the perfect ‘domestic thriller’. It isn’t.

I shouldn’t tell you about specifics, but I have to say that there were aspects of the story that were horribly implausible. One of them is fundamental to the resolution of the plot.  I struggled to believe that the relationship between Fran and Nathan had survived as long as it did . I could rationalise it, but I shouldn’t have to.  There is a final chapter that feels tacked on, that I wished wasn’t there.

The arc of the story is interesting though. I loved the twist. I think that maybe I should have worked it out but I didn’t. There was always something that made me want to carry on reading.

I’ve picked up many other books that could be labelled ‘domestic thriller’, but I’ve either found that I’ve not wanted to read them or I’ve given up on them very quickly, because there was nothing that made me want to read beyond finding out what happened.

This book is so much better that that.

 

12 thoughts on “The Loving Husband by Christobel Kent (2016)

  1. If you’re looking to explore her backlist, I would recommend A Party in San Niccolo. I picked it up on a whim a few years ago and really enjoyed it. I’m not sure this new one’s for me, but she is an interesting writer.

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