In her second psychological thriller, The Replacement Wife, Darby Kane (Pretty Little Wife) doubles up the action with two unreliable characters caught up in gaslighting, family secrets and betrayal.
Until recently, Elisa Wright had a close relationship with her charming brother-in-law, Josh Wright. But she begins to wonder if he could be a killer: seven months ago his fiancée, Abby Greene, disappeared without a trace, just a few days before their wedding. Now he's involved with another woman, Rachel Dunne, with seemingly no regard for the whereabouts of Abby, whom Elisa considered a friend. Josh's and Elisa's mental states ramp up the suspense in each scene. Elisa's discussions with Josh erupt into loud arguments, with Josh and her husband, Harris, insisting she get therapy. They maintain Elisa continues to be emotionally fragile because of a violent act at her former job. As Elisa investigates Josh, he pushes back, trying to make her think she is losing her mind. Secrets emerge about Josh's past, including circumstances around the death of his first wife.
Kane skillfully explores the dual natures of her characters in the absorbing The Replacement Wife. Josh seems both believable and deceitful, while Elisa appears stable, then occasionally in the throes of a mental breakdown. Elisa's devotion to her seven-year-old son, Nathan, keeps her grounded, but she is constantly on tenterhooks about her marriage, believing that Harris would choose Josh over her. Kane further elevates the twists, making motives cloudy as Elisa becomes friends with Rachel. Trust becomes a chilling commodity. --Oline H. Cogdill, freelance reviewer