The ball is over, the husband is dead, and the wife is nowhere to be found. What actually happened that night, and will their family ever be the same? The English Wife by Laura Willig answers that question in a well-written historical murder mystery that flips back and forth between two timelines and keeps the reader questioning what is happening in the present and how it will be upturned by the past.
Annabelle and Bay Van Duyvil have a seemingly perfect life in their beautiful handcrafted house with their twin children until, at the end of their opening ball, Bay is found dead with a dagger in his chest and Annabelle is gone, presumed dead. That happens within the opening pages. From there, we follow Bay’s sister, Janie, as she attempts to understand who her brother was and what actually happened to him that night and then we go back in time a few years to learn the true history of Annabelle and Bay, how they might, what their marriage was like, and what truly happened on that fateful night.
I chose The English Wife has my December book of the month selection and read started reading it in early February in preparation of Laura Willig coming to speak at the bookstore on campus. She’s an alumni of my university. The event was..interesting to say the least, but I hadn’t even finished the book yet. However her anecdotes about writing and her editor were really interesting to me since I work in editorial. However intrigued I was by the plot (I picked it over City of Brass) this book was a bit of a slow burn for me.I don’t read a lot of historical murder mysteries,mostly modern ones, and while I loved the little foray into the past, I wish it had been a little more fast paced. I did really enjoy how the two timelines interacted with each other though and thought that it was done well and without too much self-awareness.
At the end of the day, The English Wife is perfect for readers of historical mysteries that love big houses and balls and old New York Society, but be expected to spend some time reading it. It’s not the kind of book you read all in one sitting, but it’s an interesting one nonetheless. I genuinely enjoyed the ending and thought it was a just outcome.