The Last Wife by Karen Hamilton #BookReview #BlogTour

Nina, in the final days of her illness, asks her best friend Marie to look after her family when she's gone. And Marie does everything she can to step into Nina's shoes after her friend's tragic death. She tries to do the best by Nina, tries to be there for Nina's young children, tries to support Nina's grieving husband, tries to keep their lives on track despite their terrible loss. 
But when Marie discovers a dark secret that Nina had kept concealed, she is forced to confront the past. 
Tense, heart-breaking and utterly gripping, The Last Wife explores the real nature of love and friendship – and just how fragile every relationship can be in the face of the secrets we hide from each other. 

I'm thrilled to be opening the blog tour for The Last Wife today. Many thanks to Karen Hamilton, Wildfire and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

Marie is devastated by the death of her best friend, Nina. Their close friendship began at school and endured through the inevitable highs and lows through the years. It's not surprising then, that when Nina is diagnosed with a terminal illness, she should turn to Marie, asking her to make three promises to keep after she has gone.
The book opens after Nina's death and it quickly becomes apparent that Marie has taken her pledge seriously but before long it's obvious that there is something a little unsettling about her. The first-person narrative is perfect for a story like this because it gives some insight into what is going on in her head, although there are often just little snippets of memories which suggest she is more than just a grieving, loyal friend. It soon transpires that she has a history of lying and it seems as if she was needy to the point of possessiveness. 
She isn't particularly likeable at any point in the novel but I did find her absolutely compelling and my feelings towards her fluctuated as various secrets come to light. The plot is a slow-burner where most of the characters are flawed to the point where it becomes impossible to know if any of them can be trusted. Marie might be the unreliable narrator of the story but as she begins to look more closely at a tragedy which occurred many years ago, she isn't the only person to have kept the truth hidden or to have told lies.
She might not be a trustworthy figure but there is still a vulnerability to Marie and a genuine desire for a family of her own and I found myself pitying her even if she is a little chilling - to what lengths would she actually go to achieve what she wants? 
The domestic setting is evoked so well; with its school runs, PTA fundraising and book group, it looks to be the sort of warm community Marie so desperately wants to feel a true part of but the judgemental gossip and cruel accusations expose the fake smiles and insincere condolences and congratulations.
There is a creeping sense of menace to the storyline and the tension steadily builds towards a conclusion where Marie's state of mind has the potential to become ever more fractured. I'm mindful of not giving away any spoilers suffice to say that the return of a figure from Marie and Nina's past is the catalyst for much of what happens and the complex relationships between the characters meant I was never sure what the next revelation would be. The Last Wife is a provocative, gripping read which takes a nuanced look at justice and atonement amongst the darker side of love and friendship. I loved Karen Hamilton's debut novel, The Perfect Girlfriend but she has upped the ante here when it comes to manipulative, unpredictable characters; other that the children, I'm not sure that I would want to spend much time with any of them in real life but I couldn't put this addictive psychological thriller down!

The Last Wife will be published in the UK by Wildfire on 25th July, purchasing links can be found here but please consider supporting independent bookstores whenever you can.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Karen Hamilton spent her childhood in Angola, Zimbabwe, Belgium and Italy, and developed a love of travel through moving around so much. This led her to a career as a flight attendant, and it was in the air that she thought of the idea for her debut thriller The Perfect Girlfriend. 
Karen is a recent graduate of the Faber Academy, and has now put down roots in Hampshire to raise her young family with her husband. The Perfect Girlfriend was a Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller in paperback. The Last Wife is her hotly anticipated second novel.


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