Hannah is a newly married thirty-something year old, still smitten with her husband Owen, and largely loving their life in the Sam Francisco Bay Area. They live on a houseboat in Sausalito and she spends her days making hand turned custom wooden furniture while Owen works for an up and coming tech start up in the city where he is the right hand to the CEO. The only friction is between Hannah and Bailey, Owen’s daughter from a previous marriage, who has yet to warm to Hannah despite her best efforts.
This isn’t literary fiction about Hannah and Bailey slowly warming up to each other though. It’s a thriller, about what happens when the person who you thought you knew best turns out to be someone else entirely. For Hanna and Bailey, the story really starts when their idyllic life is shattered by a breaking news story- the FBI swoops in and arrests Owen’s boss on fraud charges and Owen vanishes. A bike messenger leaves Hannah with a cryptic note from Owen and she’s left to try and track down her husband, including a past history for him that she didn’t have any clue was coming.
This was a fun, taught and quick mystery/ thriller- I tore through it in a weekend. Dave writes reasonably well and I appreciated that she wrote Hannah as a reliable narrator (I needed a break from those unreliable heroines, a la The Woman on the Train or The Woman in Cabin 10). You may need to suspend your disbelief with some of the set up (the furniture artist job and Sausalito floating home are a bit twee- feels more romance novel set up than mystery thriller). Set up aside, once the action got moving I was hooked.
I think Dave is trying for some bigger idea consideration and I can see the ‘Readers’ Guide Questions’ now: What do you think Dave is trying to say about the secrets that we keep from those we love? Are we ever justified in keeping big secrets? How well do you think you know your own partner? Etc. Etc. I’m not sure the character development here ever got me that far- we didn’t know Owen well enough beyond Hannah’s glowing descriptions of their perfect life, so his disappearance doesn’t feel deep enough that I was connecting it to my own situation. Meaning: this was a great thriller, but it didn’t send me into moral quandries or deeper questions.
Counting this as the ‘scandal’ square for cbr14bingo- it was the scandal of a fraud charge that kicks off the plot, and all the questions about who Owen really is.