I was an instant fan of JoAnn Chaney after reading her first novel, What You Don't Know, a fantastically captivating serial killer novel that is a cut high above the rest of the thrillers out there. I also love that it is set in Colorado, since it's always fun to read a book set where you live.
To be honest, if I hadn't read Chaney's first book and been so blown away by it, I probably would have passed this one up. The cover is terrible, the title forgettable, and I am not generally a fan of domestic thrillers, which is the box this book is weirdly and desperately trying to shove itself into.
But it's so much more than that.
Chaney has this brilliant way of creating a narrative that is about so many different things that when they all tie together it's like a bucket of cold water coming down on you—you didn't realize how closely all the threads were really connected, how all the themes, the characters inner struggles, the mysteries of the plot lines all came together. Brilliant.
This book instantly drew me in: it begins in alternating chapters set in Colorado in 1995 and 2018, following two women. One finds out her husband Matt is cheating on her, and she's going to confront him—but it all goes terribly wrong. The other is going on a romantic getaway weekend in Estes Park with her husband Matt, and things take a turn for the worse when she stands a bit too close to the edge of the cliff.
Yep, you guessed it. Both women wind up dead and the husbands are the same guy. Did he get away with murdering both his wives? What is going on here? Nothing is as it seems in this book, and you really have to read it to untangle all the mysteries!
As a murderino and Colorado native, I recognized that this book has to be based in part on one of our pretty famous murder cases: that of Toni Henthorn, who was pushed off a cliff in Rocky Mountain National Park by her husband. There are lots of similar details: this couple was hiking to celebrate their anniversary, one piece of evidence was a map marked with an X where she fell that investigators found in his belongings, a huge life insurance policy was taken out before her death, and evidence also suggests he killed his first wife in a staged accident in 1995. (He was sentenced to life in prison in 2015.)
Though the book diverges from the true crime events quite a bit, it is interesting to see where Chaney got her inspiration from!
I highly recommend both of her books and look forward to reading more from her in the years to come.
My thanks to Flatiron Books for sending me an advance copy of this one to read and review.
Associate editor, amateur photdographer, bibliophile, and occasional sleuth.