The Replacement Wife by Darby Kane
For a thriller that relies on mental health issues for the instability of the narrator, for a lot of potential suspects, for a mystery rife with clues
Elisa Wright is a mom and wife, living a nice, quiet life in a nice, quiet town. She’s also convinced her brother-in-law is a murderer. Josh has one dead wife and one missing fiancée, and though he grieved for them he starts dating someone new. Elisa fears for that woman’s safety, and she desperately wants to know what happened to her friend, Josh’s missing fiancée.
Searching for clues means investigating her own family. And she doesn’t like what she finds. A laptop filled with incriminating information. Other women.
But when Elisa becomes friends with Josh’s new girlfriend and starts to question things she thinks are true, Elisa wonders if the memories of a horrible incident a year ago have finally pushed her over the edge and Josh is really innocent. With so much at stake, Elisa fights off panic attacks and a strange illness. Is it a breakdown or something more? The race is on to get to the truth before another disappearance because there’s a killer in the family… or is there?
If I had to pinpoint the one thing about this that most made me feel fairly ambivalent about it, I’d say it was that there were TOO MANY potential clues and points of confusion. I feel ridiculous saying that about a thriller where the point is to try and solve it through the clues. But man, I felt like I had whiplash with how many little secrets and questions and hints and possible angles came at me during it.
In a way, that’s a good tactic because it probably mirrored the mental state of our main narrator fairly well. She’s bombarded and completely overwhelmed and just fighting to keep going despite wanting nothing more than to lay in bed and quit for a little while. She can’t trust herself, even — and so neither can the reader. My head was spinning with all the potential ways this could pan out, and I never even came close to the actual ending.
The reveal wasn’t the issue, because even though the climactic part felt like it came out of nowhere and the solution to the mystery was not what I expected, that came just toward the end of the book and I was kind of meh the whole way though.
While I read it fairly quickly, I did so in part because I just wanted to finish it for it to be done. I was curious, but also weary. This book tired me out with the paranoia and myriad hints to keep track of (which felt like they didn’t matter in the end anyway). Short review, because again, I’m a bit tired of thinking about this one. 😅
Some spoilers about the reveal, though:
► View spoilers about the ending!
Rachel is Lauren’s step-sister, but she never met Lauren, but she’s mad because her step-mom didn’t love her enough since she missed her “real” daughter in Lauren, so she finds the guy who killed Lauren and creates this wild scenario to kill him.
I mean, who would have guessed that? And while that’s usually a compliment from me, in this case I felt pretty skeptical about it because it was just a bit too much of a stretch for me to buy it. Also the fact that she just stabs him and leaves instead of fully killing him at the end didn’t make sense with the level of pain and rage she goes on about in the little interlude chapters.
8 thoughts on “Review: The Replacement Wife by Darby Kane”
I guess if the point was to put the reader in the same headspace as the MC, then it worked? Because it sounds like both you and the MC were very confused during this book. It doesn’t sound like my kind of read, though. I don’t generally like thrillers, and this one doesn’t offer any side-themes that appeal to me.
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Yeah, I was willing to give it that link to the MC angle, but it wasn’t really… fun. The biggest theme was the effects of trauma, but it was only somewhat resolved in a healthy or optimistic way I think.
It can be really hard to read a book where the main theme is trauma, even—maybe ESPECIALLY—when it’s written well.
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