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Tuesday 14 June 2016

‘The Loving Husband’ by Christobel Kent

Published by Little Brown,
7 April 2016.
ISBN: 978-0-7515-6238-3

Christobel Kent is best known for her Sandro Cellini detective series set in Florence, but she changed course in 2015 with her psychological novel The Crooked House. I loved that book, so was keen to get hold of her new one, The Loving Husband.

Fran Hall has left her life in London to move with her husband Nathan and two young children to an old farmhouse on the edge of the Fens in East Anglia. One winter’s night Fran is woken by the crying of her baby to find the bed empty and Nathan gone. As she searches the bleak landscape for him, she begins to uncover dark secrets that lead her to believe Nathan was not the loving husband he had made himself out to be.

As she comes under pressure from police, who invade her house and her privacy, questions about Fran herself also begin to mount. Has she a secret she is hiding from everyone, including her husband?

Christobel Kent does a wonderful job of evoking the atmosphere of the Fens in winter – lonely, desolate. It is not a rural idyll. She shows us how Fran becomes more and more isolated from those around her – it is almost as if she is in a dream, not knowing which way to turn, and I felt the author evoked this beautifully and cleverly in the style of writing. The story is told mainly from Fran’s point of view, though we do get some short sections from her assigned Family Liaison Officer, which helps ground the story more in the everyday. We also move back and forward in time, building up a picture of Fran and Nathan’s marriage.

The Loving Husband is a deliciously twisty tale of secrets, lies and paranoia. As a reader, I questioned everybody and every event. The end, when it came, was totally unexpected. A beautifully written and well executed psychological thriller.
Reviewer: Mary-Jane Riley

Christobel Kent was born in London in 1962 and now lives in Cambridge with her husband and four children; in between she lived in Florence. She worked in publishing for several years, most recently as Publicity Director at Andre Deutsch. Her debut novel A Party in San Niccolo, was published in 2003.

Mary-Jane Riley wrote her first story on her newly acquired blue Petite typewriter. She was eight. It was about a gang of children who had adventures on mysterious islands, but she soon realised Enid Blyton had cornered that particular market. So she wrote about the Wild West instead. When she grew up she had to earn a living, and became a BBC radio talk show presenter and journalist. She has covered many life-affirming stories, but also some of the darkest events of the past two decades.
Then, in true journalistic style, she decided not to let the facts get in the way of a good story and got creative. She wrote for women's magazines and small presses. She formed WriteOutLoud with two writer friends to help charities get their message across using their life stories. Now she is writing psychological suspense, drawing on her experiences in journalism.
The Bad Things by Mary-Jane Riley was published by Harper Collins/Killer Reads. Her second book, After She Fell, also published by Killer Reads, is out on April 28th.
In her spare time Mary-Jane likes to walk the dog and eat a lot. Good job she likes walking.

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