The Wife Stalker, a domestic thriller from the writing team Liv Constantine (sisters Lynne and Valerie) is told through two alternating voices: Piper, the drop-dead gorgeous owner of the Phoenix Recovery Centre and the dumpy, clingy Joanna. The action takes place (mostly) in Westport, Connecticut. We know almost immediately that there is something wrong in Joanna’s life with high-powered, affluent attorney Leo Drakos and two young children Stelli and Evie. Leo is obviously depressed but we don’t know why. His latest case sends him to the Phoenix Recovery Centre which has recently been purchased by fresh transplant from California, Piper Reynard. The lovely Piper sets her eyes on Leo and it’s just a matter of days before they are cooking up excuses to spend time together.
It doesn’t take long for Joanna to sniff a rat, and a little recon confirms her suspicions. When Joanna leaves to nurse her unpleasant mother who has broken her leg, Leo immediately takes advantage of her absence to have Joanna’s belongings delivered to her mother’s home. Yes it’s finito, baby.
The competing chapters unfold with a very nasty Piper who modifies her temper with truly nauseating mantras.
As we heal. we are reborn. Nothing happens in a vacuum.
Manipulative Piper has drawn a screen over her past, and she swiftly explodes into Leo’s life, scheming her next step. Her past includes some experiences with a stepchild, and that didn’t end well. She tries with the stepkids and while Evie accepts Piper, Stelli does not. This leads to a lot of teeth-gritting from Piper as she forces smiles and says everything is alright. The children are told their mother is in heaven, blah blah, but that doesn’t help Stelli much, especially when Piper starts redecorating the family home, threatens to fire the long-term live-in nanny, and what’s up with those smoothies that include “special vitamins” for Stelli?
With Piper taking over, Joanna, from a distance, digs into Piper’s past and she finds a lot of dirt. ….
This is a highly readable book. At times, when we are inside Piper’s head, it reads like a bad romance novel which is ok, as this is how Piper thinks. I got the cuckoo-for-coco-puffs vibe from BOTH female characters. Two psycho competing female characters; yeah, I’m down with that. Joanna seems off the rails, stuck in the past. She’s overweight, unhappy and unfulfilled. Drop-dead-gorgeous Piper is evil, manipulative and rather nasty to Stelli. It apparently comes as a SHOCK to her that the children, step-children that is, come first once again. Imagine that. There’s nothing like sick children to thrown a piss-pot all over a planned night of erotic lingerie sex.
While I was reading this, there were things, holes in the narrative, that bothered me. Why is Joanna’s attorney so useless? Why is her therapist like a broken record? Why can’t Joanna see the children AT ALL? Why are there no repercussions regarding the story that the childrens’ mother is dead… up in heaven… wouldn’t that spring back on Piper and Leo?
At the end of the novel, all those questions are answered. Authors withhold information. I know that. But in this instance, it was over the top. And when all the cards were on the table, I was really annoyed by the book. It was one of those Gone-Girl deceptions that instead of revealing additional information that filled in the gaps, showed how thoroughly manipulated you were, as the reader. If you’re ok with that, then you may enjoy the book. I seem to have a minority opinion.
I enjoyed The Last Mrs Parrish which was great fun. But this one … not so much.