Welcome to the nbmagazine.co.uk stop on the blog tour for The Perfect Wife by Natasha Bell!
Here’s a little info about the book:
Alexandra Southwood has vanished. Her husband, Marc, is beside himself. It isn’t long before the police are searching for a body.
But Alexandra is alive – trapped, far away from her husband and young daughters.
Desperate, Marc will stop at nothing to find the woman he loves. Even if it means discovering that he never really knew her at all.
Because Alexandra is no ordinary missing person – but then neither is she quite a perfect wife . . .
And about author Natasha Bell:
Natasha grew up in Somerset and studied English literature at the University of York. She holds an MA in the humanities from the University of Chicago and an MA in creative writing from Goldsmiths. She lives and works in southeast London.
And here’s Erin Britton’s review of His Prefect Wife:
Alexandra Southwood is missing. She left work at the regular time on an otherwise normal day, but she never arrived home. She’s not dead though, that much seems certain, since she’s narrating His Perfect Wife from the confines of the cold concrete cell in which a nameless individual is holding her captive. A 37-year-old mother of two girls who works part-time as a lecturer in art history at the local university, Alex seemed to be living the perfect life. At least, that’s what her husband Marc believed.
It’s Marc who calls the police to report Alex missing after he waits hours for her to get home so that the pair of them can enjoy their regular Thursday night takeaway. Although he initially tries to think up every reason under the sun why Alex might have been delayed, her disappearance is certainly out of character and he’s definitely worried. The police, in the shape of Detective Inspector Jones and Family Liaison Officer Nicola Swift, try to reassure Marc that, while Alex is likely to return of her own volition, they’re doing everything they can to find her, but he can’t help thinking something dreadful has happened and also worrying that the police might suspect him of being involved in it.
When the police search turns up Alex’s bag and a large quantity of blood on the canal bank, it looks like Marc’s worst fears are going to be confirmed, but it’s at this point he develops real certainty that his wife is still alive, that someone has taken her. As the investigation shifts from being a missing persons inquiry into a likely murder case that drags on for weeks and then months without result, Marc’s friends and family lose hope and begin to try to convince him to move on with his life. He’s glad that he seems to no longer be a person of interest in the case, but he’s dismayed that the police don’t seem to have any other suspects or any likely theories as to what has happened to Alex. Marc thinks that people are keeping things from him, that somewhere out there is someone who knows where Alex is, and he determines to conduct his own investigation into the life and disappearance of the wife he thought he knew so well.
Alexandra Southwood is by necessity an unreliable narrator. As she explains at the outset of His Perfect Wife, she is imprisoned and cut off from everyone she knows and loves. Although her captor seems to have given her access to certain materials concerning her disappearance, for example, a video clip of Marc during the police’s first public appeal for information, she doesn’t really know what people are doing in her absence, so she can only speculate based on what she knows about them, their characters and their likely behaviour. This makes things interesting, since it’s impossible to know what is really going on and, therefore, to form accurate ideas as to who has taken Alex and what their motivation might be. It also provides an unusual insight into the central character’s psyche, how she feels others perceive and value her, and how she in turn feels about them.
While the reader’s sympathy is no doubt with Alex, trapped as she is in a seemingly hopeless situation and facing an unknown fate, she’s not really the most likeable of characters, not even in flashbacks told from her own point of view. Alex and Marc both seem rather smug about their family, their careers and their general situation. It’s almost as if they (subconsciously?) consider themselves to be better than their friends at the same time as Alex seems to be rather dissatisfied with her lot in life. She was an art student living and studying in Chicago when she first met Marc, although she dropped out of her course, returned to the UK and gave up on her major artistic ambitions when they got together. Despite everything she’s achieved, she still seems to think that she’s meant for bigger, better things. Her interactions with her friends and their children also suggest the strength of her ego and her capacity for riding roughshod over the hopes and dreams of others.
Still, despite these apparent flaws, it’s not clear why someone would take Alex; she seemed to live a very safe life. Marc’s investigation into her disappearance is realistically slow and haphazard, and he has to take a fair few leaps of faith as he seeks to learn the truth about his wife and what has happened to her. Natasha Bell has done a great job of portraying the fear and despair of a partner who is left behind when their loved one vanishes, as well as highlighting the dogged determination to find the truth and to ignore those who claim it’s time to move on. His Perfect Wife is a thriller that causes the reader to question everything they’re being told and to speculate as to what might really being going on. The desire to find out what has happened to Alex, whether or not they have picked up on the clues left by Bell throughout the book, should keep readers hooked right to the end.
Erin Britton 4*
His Perfect Wife by Natasha Bell
Penguin 9780718187057 pbk Mar 2019