Firstly an apology. I have had this book for some time, and it had languished in my TBR pile, sadly ignored because of other pressing deadlines. I have now read it and, goodness me, if you want a razor sharp examination of people under stress, this is it! I am not sure if Anxiety Porn is a thing, but The End of Her tugs at the frayed ends of your nerves and insecurities – with a vengeance.
We are in the (fictional) town of Aylesford, New York State, and the cast is quite extensive. To start with, I had to go back to the beginning a couple of times to make sure I knew who was who. Central to the story are a married couple, Patrick and Stephanie. They have twin baby girls. Stephanie is Patrick’s second wife, his first having died a few years earlier in a tragic accident. Patrick is in an architectural partnership with Niall, who is married to Nancy. In a different town we have have Cheryl, Gary, and their adopted son Devin. The person who links these families is a woman called Erica Voss.
It is, hopefully, no spoiler to make it clear that Ms Voss is a nasty piece of work, so how does she tie in with the three couples? Back in the day, during Patrick’s first marriage – to the late Lindsey – she and Patrick had an affair which resulted in Erica becoming pregnant. Concealing the fact from Patrick, she gave birth to a son who she effectively sells, outside of normal adoption procedures, to Cheryl and Gary. Now, nine years later, she enters the three families lives like a malignant growth. After applying for a job at the architectural firm, she seduces Niall (for reasons which only become apparent later in the story). She then blackmails Cheryl and Gary, but her trump card is played when she informs Patrick that she has evidence that Lindsey’s death was not an accident, and she is prepared to have the case reopened unless, of course, she is paid to keep her mouth shut.
The sequence of events which caused Lindsey’s death is, apparently ‘a thing’ in places like Colorado, where deep snow is a winter certainty. Preparing to drive to visit Lindsey’s parents, Patrick has gone outside to dig the car out of four feet of snow. He has turned the engine on to warm the car, and while he is digging, the heavily pregnant Lindsey comes outside and sits in the car. The exhaust is, unfortunately, blocked with snow, and the resultant build-up of carbon monoxide inside the car sends Lindsey unconscious, and by the time Patrick has finished his digging, she is dead. The emergency services are called, but to no avail, and after an investigation, the case is closed, and goes on file as a tragic accident.
What happens next is for you to find out. One of Shari Lapena’s many gifts is to use the ploy of the unreliable narrator to great effect. Yes, Erica Voss is clearly a scheming and highly plausible villain, but who else is up to no good? I have to say that I didn’t see the final resolution coming, but is there a happy ending? You can judge for yourself. The End of Her is published by Bantam Press and is available now in all formats.