Rachel Hawkins’ 2021 thriller release, The Wife Upstairs, bears a faint resemblance to 2 old-time classics – Rebecca & Jane Eyre. Swathed in a cast of unpredictable characters, the novel introduces us to Jane Bell, a dog-walker in the Thornfield Estates community.
Tired of always being dealt a bad hand by fate, Jane is surprised to have caught the attention of a wealthy widower, Eddie Rochester. Soon she finds herself moving into the house where he lived with his wife, Bea Mason. But Jane finds herself unable to keep up with the enigma that Bea was. And she begins to learn that there’s a lot more than meets the eye with regards to her disappearance.
Finally! A mystery novel that kept my brain churning.
The short, shuffling chapters of this book coupled with the frequency at which plot developments occur makes this a quick-paced novel; one you can consume in a matter of hours.
While the first quarter of the book hinted at some mystery in Jane’s past, you will gradually realise that a lot of characters are getting painted in a suspicious light, often on varying grounds. And I, for one, couldn’t have guessed the revelation because the “twist” is introduced much later in the book, without which I would not have been able to piece together the puzzle.
So even though the plot execution is definitely a highlight of the novel, there are various plot points that I found to be clichéd. None of the romance angles felt convincing, there’s blackmailing involved, and the rags to riches trope underlies the plot.
Jane, being someone who tries really hard to fit in amongst the wealthy, is actually really scornful & phony. She only looks out for herself (understandably!) and can’t trust anyone because of the troublesome experiences in her past.
The last 10-15 chapters were the most exciting ones in the book. Keep in mind that the entire story is not told in a linear fashion. We read from the POVs of multiple characters, and within those POVs, the narrative jumps back and forth between certain incidents.
On the whole, it was an enjoyable read! I would really like to pick up some more books written by the author.