The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell
Pub. Date: June 9, 2015
Source: e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Atria!!)
Summary: In the early hours of a summer morning, a young woman steps into the path of an oncoming bus. A tragic accident? Or suicide?
At the center of this puzzle is Adrian Wolfe, a successful architect and grief-stricken widower, who, a year after his third wife’s death, begins to investigate the cause. As Adrian looks back on their brief but seemingly happy marriage, disturbing secrets begin to surface. The divorces from his two previous wives had been amicable, or so it seemed; his children, all five of them, were resilient as ever, or so he thought. But something, or someone, must have pushed Maya over the edge…
Genre: Contemporary, Psychological Thriller
Recommended for: Fans of Liane Moriarty and Jojo Moyes!
I recently mentioned my attempt to go back and review old/expired novels I received from netgalley. One of those I still need to get to is Lisa Jewell’s Before I Met You, a novel that sounds so up my alley I’m shocked I never got around to it: alternating between the 1990s and the 1920s, this one is a tale of a grandmother and her granddaughter and the people they meet along the way that bridges that seventy-year gap.
So when I was approved for her latest novel, I was determined to get it read on time. The Third Wife in this case is Maya, Adrian’s literal third wife. While things appear great on the surface – the two ex-wives are still friendly toward the new couple and the entire family goes on holiday together – Maya’s seemingly random death reveals dark secrets. Adrian knows that 1) Maya wasn’t a heavy drinker; her blood alcohol level was at an extreme and that’s just not her and 2) she wasn’t suicidal. There’s just no explanation for why she would have walked out in front of a bus in the middle of the night. Was she pushed? Was it all just a terrible accident?
As Adrian digs deeper he discovers a trove of hidden e-mails Maya had buried in the depths of her laptop, horrible e-mails that could have only come from someone in the family. When he places an ad looking for someone to take Maya’s cat, he meets a woman named Jane – does she know Maya? Why is she following his family? The cell phone she leaves behind in his couch only brings more questions: it’s clearly not Jane’s phone, so who does it belong to and what does Jane have to do with everything?
The Third Wife was a quick page-turner and I easily read in it a single sitting. The comparisons to Liane Moriarty and Jojo Moyes certainly didn’t hurt either! I found myself genuinely intrigued and interesting in solving the mystery behind Maya’s death and Jane’s identity – she’s definitely hiding something, but what? Other reviews have mentioned this is one of Jewell’s weakest novels and, while I haven’t read any of her other works, I’m inclined to agree. The characterization was great (three wives, five kids – there were a number of people to keep straight!) and the mystery was gripping, but the ending was so sitcom-y I felt ripped off.
Essentially, what it all boils down to is that the adult children were still upset over their father leaving their mother (the first wife) for the second wife and then the third. The sitcom part came at the very end when, after discovering Maya’s death truly was an accident (what a letdown that was!) Adrian realizes he needs to play a larger role in his children’s life and wants to become a family again. Yawn. And Jane’s identity? Turns out she’s just some random witness to Maya’s death…though I’m still not sure when she kept using different aliases and felt the need to stalk Adrian’s children.
Despite the disappointing ending (I had been hoping for something a little more exciting, especially after all that build-up!) and the unanswered questions, I enjoyed The Third Wife. It wasn’t the psychological thriller I had been hoping for, but it had me invested in the story and the characters’ lives and I was genuinely interested in seeing how it would all turn out for them. I’m still looking forward to the other novel I have (Before I Met You) and I’m waiting until I’ve read that one to pass judgment of Jewell’s storytelling, but if you’re looking for a quick read, you could do worse than The Third Wife.