Thriller with compelling flawed characters keeps you guessing
The Wife Upstairs - Freida McFadden
Hollywood Upstairs Press
Released: 23rd March 2020
Psychological Thriller Fans rating - 86% ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Genre: Psychological thriller / mystery
Premise: Sylvia Robinson takes up a job looking after Adam’s severely brain-injured wife, Victoria, but when Sylvia discovers Victoria’s secret diary, she realises Adam might not be the man she thought he was.
In summary: A great thriller that keeps you guessing with short punchy chapters and a set of compelling flawed characters.
Freida McFadden’s name has been cropping up with increasing frequency on social media recommendation posts, and as I’d not read any of her books before, I dived in with The Wife Upstairs.
This is a really easy, compelling read that reminded me of Colleen Hoover’s Verity (without the gratuitous sex) - and clearly inspired by Jane Eyre - with one of the main characters a disabled wife confined by her injuries to her bedroom.
The story is told through the eyes of Sylvia Robinson who inadvertently bags the job of home-help when she bumps into the dashing bestselling writer, Adam in a diner.
Adam asks her if she would be prepared to help him look after his beloved wife, Victoria who’s been left severely injured after falling down the stairs.
The offer seems too good to be true and Sylvia jumps at the chance, even though it means moving to Adam’s remote house in Montauk at the farthest tip of Long Island in New York.
Sylvia finds Victoria is hardly able to do anything for herself, let alone talk – but she does manage to point Sylvia to her secret diary she’s kept hidden.
The diary recounts Victoria’s side of the story about how she met Adam and how their relationship progressed.
But of course, this is a psychological thriller. The contents of the diary and how Adam is portrayed don’t quite match up to how Sylvia sees him.
And there lies the essential question at the heart of the novel – who do you believe? Adam? Or Victoria?
Much like Verity, the story unfolds in a dual timeline. Firstly Sylvia’s experience with Adam and Victoria in the house.
And secondly, through the accounts in Victoria’s diary.
The story keeps you on your toes throughout and has you questioning what is true and what is false all the way through, from the first chapter to the end.
There are twists at the end. They’re not mega, blow your mind twists but they work well to throw the reader off-balance.
There’s even a brilliant example of Chekhov’s Gun used to great effect.
This is a well-told story, nicely written with short punchy chapters that keep you turning the pages and trying to second-guess the end.
Another go-to author to put on my must-read list.
Victoria Barnett has it all.
A great career as a nurse practitioner. A handsome and loving husband. A beautiful home in the suburbs and a plan to fill it with children. Life is perfect—or so it seems.
Then she’s in a terrible accident… and everything falls apart.
Now Victoria is unable to walk. She can’t feed or dress herself. She can’t even speak. She is confined to the top floor of her house with twenty-four-hour care.
Sylvia Robinson is hired by Victoria’s husband to help care for her. But it turns out Victoria isn’t as impaired as Sylvia was led to believe. There’s a story Victoria desperately wants to tell… if only she could get out the words.
Then Sylvia discovers Victoria’s diary hidden away in a drawer.
And what’s inside is shocking.
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AJ Wills is the bestselling author of multiple psychological thrillers. He was a journalist for more than twenty years and has been writing full-time since March 2021. He's married to