THE OTHER WOMAN by Sandie Jones
Minotaur Books; 8/21/18
CBTB Rating: 4/5
The Verdict: binge-worthy suspense perfect for the last few weekends of summer
Summer is winding down, but there’s still time to sneak in a beach trip before autumn arrives—and when you do, Sandie Jones’ debut THE OTHER WOMAN belongs in your beach bag. Fast-paced and binge-worthy, THE OTHER WOMAN is a strong example of what I like to call “popcorn reading”: a suspense novel with serious entertainment value that begs to be devoured in one sitting. THE OTHER WOMAN will appeal most to fans of domestic suspense novels like B.A. Paris’ BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, but Jones' debut contributes a fresh angle to the genre that makes it a worthy addition to your TBR in its own right. The story’s titular “other woman” isn’t a mistress… it’s a mother-in-law named Pammie, and she’s bad news in the best way. What begins as a fairly standard psychological suspense setup (woman meets nearly-too-good-to-be-true man, and a romantic relationship ensues) quickly becomes deliciously dramatic and sinister; Pammie has no intention of letting her son marry our story’s protagonist, and the lengths she’s willing to go to will equal parts shock and entertain. Remember that romantic comedy Monster in Law? THE OTHER WOMAN is like that, but with a dark, vengeful twist. If you’re in the market for a lighter suspense read with a genuinely jaw-dropping finale, Sandie Jones’ debut belongs on your TBR.
HE LOVES YOU: Adam adores Emily. Emily thinks Adam’s perfect, the man she thought she’d never meet.
BUT SHE LOVES YOU NOT: Lurking in the shadows is a rival, a woman who shares a deep bond with the man she loves.
AND SHE'LL STOP AT NOTHING: Emily chose Adam, but she didn’t choose his mother Pammie. There’s nothing a mother wouldn’t do for her son, and now Emily is about to find out just how far Pammie will go to get what she wants: Emily gone forever.
THE OTHER WOMAN will have you questioning her on every page, in Sandie Jones' chilling psychological thriller about a man, his new girlfriend, and the mother who will not let him go.
It’s a classic story: girl meets boy, girl and boy fall in love, girl and boy (hopefully) live happily ever after. Granted, in this case the “girl” and “boy” are successful adults who happen to cross paths at a bar… but you get the picture. In Sandie Jones’ modern-day fairytale-gone-wrong, there’s one very serious obstacle to their otherwise happy union: the boy’s mother, Pammie. Manipulative, cunning, and downright chilling, Pammie is exactly the breath of fresh air my domestic suspense reading list needed. Jones turns a genre trope on its head in her gripping debut; where readers might be lured by the book’s title into assuming this story features an affair or a mistress, the truth is much more entertaining. Emily has found her perfect man in Adam, but there’s one serious - and very difficult to circumvent - obstacle: Adam’s mother. The brilliance of this setup is twofold. First and foremost, it’s relatable: if you haven’t experienced a strained mother-in-law relationship yourself, you’ve surely heard of one. Second, it centers around a relationship far more permanent than an affair: affairs can (hopefully!) be avoided, but relationships with the parents of your partner or spouse are much harder to steer clear of. Inject this very ordinary relationship with a healthy dose of hostility, and the result is the delightfully twisted relationship that Pammie and Emily share.
Speaking of relatability, what makes Jones’ debut work so well is the quiet way in which Pammie makes her disdain for Emily known. There’s certainly drama to be found within this book’s pages, but THE OTHER WOMAN relies most heavily of all on Pammie’s under-the-radar menace—and it’s this understated quality that makes her such a fun antagonist to read. Pammie is keenly attuned to social niceties and expectations, and she uses this innate sense of propriety against Emily at every possible turn. It’s a unique brand of psychological warfare, and it plays out between the two women over the battlefield of holiday meals and wedding planning. Without spoiling anything, my personal favorite scene in the book involves a holiday tea gone very wrong—or very right, if you’re on Pammie’s team. Much of THE OTHER WOMAN feels like watching a trainwreck you just can’t look away from: we know exactly what Pammie is up to, and we cringe as we watch Emily endure the very public humiliations and trials her future mother-in-law puts her through. It’s wickedly entertaining, and readers will feel for Emily as much as they will cheer on Pammie’s cunning schemes. And make no mistake: Pammie truly is the focal point of this story, with Emily and Adam merely pawns in Pammie’s games. If you love an antagonist who's oddly endearing even while she does truly terrible things to those around her, you'll love (or, rather, love to hate) Pammie as much as I did. Jones balances the melodramatic and the ordinary to pitch-perfect effect in THE OTHER WOMAN; the result is a psychological suspense novel that manages to be just dramatic enough to entertain without losing the underlying relatability that makes it such a creepy read.
Readers who love suspense novelists like B.A. Paris and Clare Mackintosh will find themselves swept right along in Jones’ breezy, binge-worthy storytelling. THE OTHER WOMAN truly is a one-sitting kind of read; from its pacing to its page-turning fun, this is exactly the kind of suspense novel that belongs in your bag as you head to the beach or pool for Labor Day. You’ll be best suited for THE OTHER WOMAN if you want nothing more than to be totally entertained for an afternoon—this book won’t be the right choice if you’re looking for darker or grittier crime fiction, but that’s absolutely not a negative. (You know my mantra: it’s all about expectations!) THE OTHER WOMAN is just plain fun to devour, and Pammie is an antagonist for the ages. And let’s not forget the whopper of an ending Jones has in store for readers… talk about a twist. If you’re looking for the next BEHIND CLOSED DOORS by B.A. Paris, this one is a strong contender.
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.
Bonus: Q&A with Sandie Jones
Sandie kindly took the time to answer a few of my most pressing questions about her debut novel, and an excerpt of our conversation is below! You can find the full Q&A here.
CBTB: What first inspired you to write THE OTHER WOMAN? Can you identify one moment when the idea popped into your head, or did it develop over time?
SJ: The idea came about as a result of talking to friends and acquaintances who all seemed to have a mother-in-law story to tell! But I was imagining a more humorous take on it, perhaps a comedy or light-hearted chick lit novel. But the more I wrote about Pammie, the more sinister she became and once I started, I couldn’t stop!
CBTB: At the center of THE OTHER WOMAN is a less-than-likeable woman named Pammie. How would you describe Pammie to readers who haven’t had the chance to meet her yet?
SJ: Ooh, where to start?!? Pammie is all your worst nightmares comes true. On the face of it, she is the typical matriarch of the family, seemingly holding everything together with good humour and grace. But behind-the-scenes, she is anything but, and it’s Emily who bears the brunt of her wicked ways and viciousness. There is NOTHING she wouldn’t do to get Emily out of her son’s life.
CBTB: Readers will love that THE OTHER WOMAN puts a unique spin on the domestic thriller; the “woman” of the story’s title isn’t a mistress, but a soon-to-be mother-in-law! Why did you want to focus your suspense novel on this particular kind of relationship? What made this relationship compelling to you?
SJ: I loved the idea of focusing the story on a mother-in-law because it is such a unique relationship, as it is one of the very few adult relationships we don’t get to choose. We fall in love and HAVE to accept his/her parents as part of the package, and so it is no surprise that those relationships are so often strained and difficult. There is also an element of control that the mother or father might have over your other half which will always cause stress as you compete for their attention.
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books (August 21, 2018)
Crime by the Book is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way affects my opinion of the above book.