EXCERPT: Present Day - the night of her fortieth birthday
She stumbled through the dark woods, the trees dripping raindrops onto her hair and her party dress. Her shoes were covered in mud, and she trembled from the cold.
'Hey,' she called out. 'This is crazy. My shoes are soaked.'
'Just a little farther.'
She was out of breath, and her feet were killing her. It wouldn't be good for the baby if she tripped and fell. Then they rounded a bend. She got an open view ahead, and knew finally where they were. When she saw the ghostly shape looming in the distance, she stopped dead.
'You know why.'
In a matter of minutes, they reached the foot of the bridge. A frigid wind blew in her face, carrying the scent of decaying leaves and ice-cold water. There were barriers across the bridge now, blocking access, and a profusion of warming signs. Danger. Private Property. No Trespassing. The signs were there for liability reasons, but from what she understood, the local kids still liked to make the breathless leap into the river. The more people who died here, the bigger the dare. Kids had no fear; they were young, and didn't know better. She could have told them. Somebody dies, and it changes the lives of those left behind, forever.
'I don't know what kind of point you're trying to make, bringing me here,' she said, her voice shaking with tears. But she didn't turn back.
They walked forward a few paces, stepped over an old, tumbled-down metal fence and kept walking until they got to where the centre of the bridge used to be. There it was, the abyss that he'd fallen through, the night he disappeared forever. She looked down and saw the water roiling against the rocks. The town had done a crappy job of boarding it over. They'd 'fixed' it many times over the intervening years, but they were too cheap for the one fix that would work, which would have been to tear the evil thing down once and for all. Below, the water swirled and foamed. She could hear the roar from up here, over the pounding of her heart.
'No,' she said, backing away from the edge.
'Go . . . ahead?'
'Go ahead and jump. You know you want to.'
ABOUT 'IT'S ALWAYS THE HUSBAND': Kate, Aubrey, and Jenny. They first met as college roommates and soon became inseparable, even though they are as different as three women can be. Twenty years later, one of them is standing at the edge of a bridge . . and someone else is urging her to jump.
How did things come to this?
As the novel cuts back and forth between their college years and their adult years, you see the exact reasons why these women love and hate each other—but can feelings that strong lead to murder? Or will everyone assume, as is often the case, that it’s always the husband?
MY THOUGHTS: A book of two halves. I didn't much enjoy the story of the girls college years. And to be quite honest, I didn't think that it held together that well. I could see the necessity for it, but did there have to be so much of it? I got the idea pretty quickly, honestly. I was ready to move on long before the book was.
I much preferred the parts of the story where they are all adults, and I am using that term very loosely, because some things never change.
Jenny is still trying to keep a firm rein on both Aubrey, who has married up and is living in the same town as Jenny, and Kate, who eventually married Griff or, more accurately, his trust fund. Kate is the poor little rich girl, who dazzles and bewitches, towing Jenny and Aubrey along in her self-destructive wake.
The three are bound together in an uneasy truce of secrets and lies, Jenny not quite ever trusting either Aubrey, or wildcard Kate. Her whole life has been built on the successful cover-up of a scandal, so when Kate does something that threatens to bring the whole mess crashing down around them, Jenny goes into crisis management mode. But does this former 'good girl' know where to draw the line any more?
There were so many ways this could have ended, and Michelle Campbell did a wonderful job of suggesting them all, leaving the truth hanging until the very final moment.
I can't say that I enjoyed this read. I was tempted during the first half to throw in the towel. I am glad I didn't, because the second half of the book had me rapidly flipping the pages as the feeling of impending disaster intensified.
This is a good mystery. The characterisation is excellent. I didn't like any of the characters, but I didn't need to. I was invested in the plot, built on greed, envy, dissolution, secrets, lies and betrayal.
Campbell obviously knows a lot about her subject and the setting, which is like a foreign country to me. This is her first novel. I am definitely going to be a starter for her future ones.
THE AUTHOR: Michele Campbell is a graduate of Harvard College and Stanford Law School and a former federal prosecutor in New York City who specialized in international narcotics and gang cases.
A while back, she said goodbye to her big-city legal career and moved with her husband and two children to an idyllic New England college town a lot like Belle River in IT’S ALWAYS THE HUSBAND. Since then, she has spent her time teaching criminal and constitutional law and writing novels.
She's had many close female friends, a few frenemies, and only one husband, who – to the best of her knowledge – has never tried to kill her.
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to St Martin's Press via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of It's Always the Husband by Michelle Campbell for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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