In “The Second Husband,” Kate White presents us with an unusual murder mystery: the first murder in question happened over two years before the present time, in the “then,” as she labels the flashbacks. Emma was married to Derrick, who was tragically murdered while at a conference in New York City. The murder was senseless, and the culprit never found. Emma has felt guilt since that horrific act of violence because their marriage was unhappy, and Derrick had changed from the man she fell in love with. No one, not even her closest friend, knows about her lack of grief.
Now, two years later, she’s happily married to Tom, who is a wonderful husband in every way. Their life together in Westport, Connecticut, seems idyllic. Her office is conveniently located in what was an artist’s studio in the backyard, and she also consults with Tom’s company. It’s their first summer in their new home, and she’s a bit sad that Tom’s stepdaughter from his previous marriage is staying with them while interning with his company. But one of the things she loves about Tom is that he is kind and thoughtful, and the stay is only two months.
When a New York City detective shows up one afternoon with the information that the department is reopening Derrick’s murder case, she gets the feeling, from the questions that she’s asked, that she’s one of the suspects. And for a while, we wonder if she might have been the one behind the murder. But White is diabolically clever in the plethora of choices she offers for determining the murderer, one of whom might just be Emma’s current loving husband. The other characters include her late husband’s brother, Kyle, an arrogant hedge fund manager who has his own company; a new acquaintance who seems overly interested in the current and past events; a few of Tom’s employees; and Emma’s employees. Any of these might have been the one leaving the mysterious and vaguely threatening letters which have appeared randomly on Emma’s doorstep and on her car.
When there is a second murder, the stakes are raised. Emma must consider whether other deaths of acquaintances were really natural or not. She must also worry that her own life is in danger—but from whom? The mystery is extremely well devised with some twists that we do not expect, although in retrospect, the cleverly placed clues were, in fact, presented to us. This novel is a quick read for several reasons. We like the main character and want her to be happy, and we really want to know what happened to Derrick. Once we get involved in the story, we don’t want to put the novel down.
Please note: This review is based on the final trade book provided by HarperCollins, the publisher, for review purposes.