Monday, November 19, 2012

Prying Eyes & Hidden Lives


In the wee hours one morning, a sleepless woman gives up on her futile attempts to lure Mr. Sandman and gets out of bed to sit down at the desk in her home office, where she logs onto the internet to indulge in some mindless surfing. 

Connie Bowskill’s “mindless” surfing is hardly without thought, however; she knows exactly what website she’s going to visit--a homes-for-sale site run by a realtor in a larger town some distance away. Nor is the listing number she types in a random one; the luxury address is one she knows by heart. (In fact, she’s already viewed this particular property’s virtual tour so many times, she could recite the contents of every room by memory.)

What she isn’t prepared for, though, is the scene before her when the tour gets to the living room... because this time through, in the middle of the den’s (normally-pristine) pale carpet, lies a woman, surrounded by a sea of thick, viscous, blood-red. And, as the camera completes its pan around the room, Connie is convinced of one thing: the woman in the video is most-surely quite dead.

Shocked, Connie races back down the hall to rouse her husband Kit, so she can show him the unspeakable horror she’s just witnessed. But, when she’s finally managed to drag him to her office and clicks the “view tour” icon again, nothing is out of the ordinary on the playback... the living room is as spotless and unremarkable as the rest of the house. No body. No pool of blood. Zilch.

Kit--with a vaguely-disgusted and more-than-a-little-pitying look on his face--goes back to bed, leaving Connie alone with her fears--and starting to question her own sanity--in Sophie Hannah’s gripping psychological thriller, The Other Woman’s House.


Despite Kit’s lack of support--and despite not seeing the same horrifying scene repeated, not even once, in the subsequent dozens of times she viewed the tour--Connie will not be dissuaded, and contacts the police. She shows them the online listing--displaying the perfectly-innocuous (and body-free) set of rooms in the tour, of course--then repeatedly describes what she saw. It sounds implausible, she knows... but she remains convinced she didn’t dream it up, regardless of what anyone else might think.

Making matters more interesting--for her husband, and certainly for the police--is the peculiar connection (and rather sordid fascination) which Connie has long had with that particular address. She’d borrowed Kit’s car one day several months previously, and was fiddling with the GPS unit on the way home. When she’d pressed “home” to see what route was recommended for her return trip, though, it wasn’t their own address which popped up... but the one of the house for sale. 

Kit, when she’d confronted him that evening, had sworn he had no idea what to make of it. It must’ve been some random setting entered by the person who tested the unit at the factory, he said. Why on earth would he program the address of a place he’d never even been into his own GPS?

Connie could think of one very good reason: Kit must have another woman, another life, on the side. He did, after all, spend a lot of time on the road between their little village and London, where he worked much of the week. It would be so easy for him to stop off somewhere for a little something-something any time he was supposedly out working... 

But even as Connie’s obsession with the house, with the dead body she knows she saw, and with the woman selling the house (Kit’s “other woman”?) escalates, making her appear less and less stable to everyone around her, something unexpected happens: another person steps forward, claiming to have seen the same scene--the same dead body--in the virtual tour that Connie did. And just like that, everything changes again...


The Other Woman’s House is a fascinating psychological thriller which takes a look at the darkness that can live inside us. It doesn’t go precisely where I expected for much of the book that it would (which is much appreciated); instead, it twists and meanders throughout the history of a relationship (that of the Bowskills) and takes interesting little turns in and out of Connie’s memories and thoughts, keeping the reader a bit unbalanced, a bit uncertain (much as Connie, herself, is, throughout the story). 

At the same time, there’s quite a lot of meandering, so if you’re not much for personal introspection and psychological baggage, or are just the sort who likes things explained succinctly and wrapped up tidily, without a series of misdirects, you may find The Other Woman’s House a little trying.

Another thing worth noting--especially for those readers for whom it's imperative to really like the main character--is that Connie can be, in a word, annoying. Sure, there are plenty of reasons behind her manic thoughts and bizarre actions--namely, her smothering, controlling family--but there were a lot of times I just wanted to shake some sense into her.

Still, if you’re as much a fan of dark psychological thrillers as I am, this one’s a recommended read, because it is intriguing. Just be sure to save it for a lonely weekend--the kind that makes you double- and triple-check all your windows and doors, and jump at every little sound--to get the benefit of the full paranoid effect. :)

GlamKitty Catnip Mousie Rating: 3.75 out of 5 mousies 


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