THE LAST MRS. PARRISH by Liv Constantine
CBTB Rating: 3/5
The Verdict: entertaining, but perhaps not suited for crime readers
Try as I might not to judge a book by its cover, some are just too pretty to resist—THE LAST MRS. PARRISH by Liv Constantine is a prime example. Unfortunately, my experience reading this book didn’t quite live up to how enamored I was with its cover. While undeniably entertaining and fast-paced, THE LAST MRS. PARRISH won’t work for crime readers looking for dark, twisty psychological suspense; on the other hand, this book does still tackle themes that might be too dark for readers looking to enjoy a work of women’s fiction. Is it dark romance? Psychological suspense? Contemporary fiction? This genre-bending wouldn't be an issue, aside from the fact that I've seen this book largely promoted as a "twisty psychological thriller". I would not recommend THE LAST MRS. PARRISH for crime readers, but I also would never deny that there is something very entertaining about this book—it’s just not quite the shocking thriller it’s billed to be.
Some women get everything. Some women get everything they deserve.
Amber Patterson is fed up. She’s tired of being a nobody: a plain, invisible woman who blends into the background. She deserves more—a life of money and power like the one blond-haired, blue-eyed goddess Daphne Parrish takes for granted.
To everyone in the exclusive town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut, Daphne—a socialite and philanthropist—and her real-estate mogul husband, Jackson, are a couple straight out of a fairy tale.
Amber’s envy could eat her alive . . . if she didn't have a plan. Amber uses Daphne’s compassion and caring to insinuate herself into the family’s life—the first step in a meticulous scheme to undermine her. Before long, Amber is Daphne’s closest confidante, traveling to Europe with the Parrishes and their lovely young daughters, and growing closer to Jackson. But a skeleton from her past may undermine everything that Amber has worked towards, and if it is discovered, her well-laid plan may fall to pieces.
Because my feelings on this book were so mixed, I'm going to structure this review such that it considers the book's pros and cons in equal measure. If you want just the highlights, skip ahead to my review's final paragraph; if you're interested in the particulars, read on! First up: let's tackle what didn't work for me about this book.
I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but I am all about setting readers up with the right expectations for each and every book I review. In the case of THE LAST MRS. PARRISH, my expectations might have been a bit off going into this book, and I’m here to set the record straight. Based on author blurbs and early reviews alike, I had expected to be digging into a twisty and dark psychological thriller when I picked up this book. Unfortunately, my experience was quite different. THE LAST MRS. PARRISH falls somewhere in the space between psychological suspense and women’s fiction. Reading a bit like a dark romance novel with a dash of intrigue, this book involves gratuitous sex scenes, a significant amount of time spent reveling in the glamour and amenities that come with extreme wealth, and a whole lot of interpersonal manipulation. Had I known this from the get-go, I would have likely passed this book over—it's just not my personal style.
More than anything else, THE LAST MRS. PARRISH is not the twisty thriller it’s billed to be. Again, this isn’t actually an issue with the book itself—it’s an issue with the way it’s being marketed. There is only one significant plot twist in this story, and it’s undeniably an entertaining one, but it’s not substantial enough for this book to keep pace with the current crop of genuinely shocking psychological thrillers. (If you want recent releases with great plot twists, try LIE TO ME by J.T. Ellison and WHITE BODIES by Jane Robins.) I understand the marketing benefit of describing a book as “twisty”, but it’s not worth it when it’s going to lead readers to a book that won’t actually deliver the promised thrills. A seasoned crime fiction reader will see this story’s twist coming, and won’t find it wholly satisfactory. I did enjoy Part II (post-plot twist) of the book significantly more than Part I, but I would still be hesitant to recommend this book to a reader looking specifically for a twisty psychological thriller.
The vast majority of this book is spent watching characters manipulate one another for self-gain, a topic which could be psychologically meaty if it weren’t quite as “fluffy” as it is in this book. The manipulations of this book are largely for status and money, topics which I don’t find as compelling as others might be. If you’re looking for a book that’s practically dripping with glitz (think detailed descriptions of fancy clothes, explorations of the lifestyles of the very wealthy), you will feel right at home in THE LAST MRS. PARRISH. And there’s no shame in this at all - I say this purely to give you the right expectations! If, however, you’re looking for a crime novel with more depth and darkness to it, this book won’t work for you.
Now here’s where things get tricky. For all of these concerns, I did still enjoy this read. Would I recommend it to crime readers? Personally, no, I wouldn’t, but I can understand where this book will work for readers of many different genre preferences. There is something instantly engaging about the way Liv Constantine (a pen name for a writing duo) writes. Despite my hesitations, Constantine’s writing is fast-paced and breezy—the sort of binge-able reading material that I usually love when looking for a psychological thriller. This pacing kept me engaged, even when I wasn’t fully invested in the story or its characters. Above and beyond anything else, I appreciated that Constantine keeps this story moving; the duo covers a lot of ground in THE LAST MRS. PARRISH, and the book’s pace makes this possible.
And remember my concern over this book’s lack of substantial twists? I stand by that, but I also acknowledge that the twist Constantine has written is quite entertaining. It might not fool an experienced crime reader, but it does set up the second half of the book for a much more unique direction than the first. If I could review this book just based on Part II, my review would be quite different—but of course, this book does need an extravagant Part I to offset its more sobering Part II. In Part II of the book, Constantine delivers a character who readers can root for, and re-frames some of the absurdity of Part I in a much more psychological suspense-oriented direction. I appreciated the contrast provided here—readers will find that Part II helps them appreciate some of the “fluff” and extravagance of Part I a good deal more.
I am glad to have waited to post this review, if only because this week’s issue of Publishers Weekly seemed to confirm my suspicion: PW recommended THE LAST MRS. PARRISH in a holiday gift guide, and interestingly, they did not include it in the Mystery & Thriller category, but rather in the category of Literary Fiction. To me, this is really the core issue behind my ambivalence towards this read. THE LAST MRS. PARRISH is glitzy and glamorous, entertaining and pacey, yet it lacks the psychological substance and shocking twists needed to keep up with this fall’s stellar psychological thriller lineup. But perhaps this wasn’t the authors’ intention in the first place—perhaps this book is best appreciated by readers looking for escapist, sexy, slightly twisted fun.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions my own.
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Harper (October 17, 2017)
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