Wow. It’s been a rollercoaster ride finishing “The Fiancée” by Kate White. This mystery has more twists than a braided challah and a main character who is determined to get answers. But before you begin this story set on an idyllic weekend estate in rural Pennsylvania, be prepared to keep reading and reading because once you start, you will want to know how this all ends!
Summer, her husband Gabe, and her stepson Henry are visiting Gabe’s parents’ estate for their yearly family vacation. Also present are Gabe’s many brothers, but this time his brother Nick has brought someone unexpected, his new girlfriend, who like Summer is an actor. Summer remembers meeting Hannah because both actors were in a showcase together, so it’s really strange that Hannah professes that she was never there. This gets Summer’s curiosity aroused, and she starts to do some digging. She’s sure there’s something shady about Hannah, and we wonder, is there a bit of jealousy involved because Hannah is filming a Netflix pilot? Perhaps.
But Summer feels justified when Claire, Gabe’s mother, who adores Summer, agrees that something is not quite right with the beautiful Hannah. And when Nick impulsively announces their engagement, Summer is even more sure that something is off. All too soon, Claire dies, seemingly from a heart attack. But before that happens, Henry overhears Claire scolding someone, although he’s only able to share Claire’s part of the conversation. He doesn’t know whom she was talking to. But Summer suspects that it was Hannah, and she puts together enough clues to believe that Claire was poisoned by the beautiful foxglove plants that Claire grew in one of her many stunning flower beds. Now Summer just has to decide what to do with this information.
Unfortunately, Gabe doesn’t seem receptive to her investigation, and in fact, her attempts to dig into what happened cause friction between Gabe and Summer. Then there’s another murder, and now Summer is faced with a dilemma: does she say anything about her suspicions? We learn about reasons that more than one person might have wanted Claire dead, and we realize that the person who was murdered might have been mistaken for someone else. When everyone in the house feels unsafe, whom can Summer trust?
One thing that author White excels at is presenting us with main characters we really like. And while we may not agree with all of Summer’s decisions, we know that she’s a really good person. She’s a loving and really wonderful stepmother to Henry, and she’s supportive of Gabe, even if we wonder at times if he deserves it. But because Summer is narrating the story, we only know what she knows. And mystery readers know that first person narrators can be unreliable, right?
Is Summer trusting the right people? Which of the brothers’ wives are potential allies and which should not be trusted? Who is in danger next? And what did the cryptic comment Claire made about Hannah before she was killed actually mean? With the perfect timing of a magician revealing the final act of a complicated trick, White untwists some of the trails we have taken and unerringly leads us to the finale—one which most of us will not have expected, but which does become logical once we reconsider all the information that White had casually revealed throughout the story.
This is the ultimate beach read, although again, be forewarned. You won’t be spending much time in the water because you’ll be turning page after page to discover who did it and why. And when you do find out? You’ll be a Kate White fan, because no one does it better!
Please note: This review is based on the final, paperback book provided by the publisher, Harper, for review purposes.