Kate, Aubrey, and Jenny. They first met as college roommates and soon became inseparable, even though they are as different as three women can be. Twenty years later, one of them is standing at the edge of a bridge . . and someone else is urging her to jump.
How did things come to this?
As the novel cuts back and forth between their college years and their adult years, you see the exact reasons why these women love and hate each other—but can feelings that strong lead to murder? Or will everyone assume, as is often the case, that it’s always the husband?
It’s Always the Husband by Michele Campbell is a 2017 St. Martin’s Press publication. The interesting choice of title and the gorgeous cover aroused my interest in this novel. In my opinion, the storyline idea, albeit decent and promising, is not uncommon when it comes to the mystery fiction. The surprising aspect of this book given the genre it belongs to is the sophisticated and elaborate writing style. When I read The Couple Next Door, for example, I was bitterly disappointed with the immature writing, whereas Michele Campbell’s mystery left me with the impression that it was a little overwritten. Initially I must admit I was caught up in the heavy characterization and the in-depth analysis of the protagonists’ mentalities. However, as the story progressed, I started to slighly lose my concentration on what was going on in the book due to the fact that I felt exhausted by the vast amount of detailed information and the rather difficult vocabulary used by the author. Regarding the suspense, it built gradually and culminated in an anticipated revelation, taking into consideration the title. I believe that neither the suspense nor the mystery played a key role in this book. To be honest, It’s Always the Husband was all about the female characters and the dynamics of the apparent friendship between the three.
The novel comprises two parts which differ considerably one from another. Aside from the minor change of pace, in the first half of the book we are provided with everything we need to know about the setting, the characters’ personality traits, their backgrounds, the beginnings of their friendship and the events that have caused conflicts between them, whereas the second half partly resembles a police procedural. The story is told entirely in third-person and moves between past – when Kate, Aubrey and Jenny were freshman students at Carlisle College – and present – when the three women are in their 40s and all of them married.
Michele Campbell did a great job of creating a cast of unlikeable and obnoxious characters. Even though the female protagonists are strongly individualized throughout the entire story, they appeared a little stereotypical to me, especially in the first few chapters. Kate is a New Yorker coming from a very wealthy family. She lost her ill mother at an early stage in life and has always had a difficult relationship with her father who has disapproved of her chaotic lifestyle. Kate is beautiful, mean, materialistic, indifferent, manipulative, complicated and somehow everyone gravitates towards her. I think that her destiny perfectly illustrates the saying “What goes around, comes around”. Jenny is the intelligent, conscientious, calculated, opportunist, controlling type of woman. She has a competitive mindset and is capable of lying and betrayal in order to attain her objectives. Given all these traits, it is not surprising that she became the mayor of Belle River. As a freshman student, Aubrey was poor, naive and easily influenced by others. She idolized Kate and behaved similarly to her. While reading the first part of the book, I found Aubrey very antipathetic and foolish. Subsequently, she slightly grew on me because she was the only one between the three female characters who underwent a visible development. She has learnt that her so-called friends are untrustworthy and in reality they have never truly cared about her and regarded her as a person inferior to them.
In conclusion, It’s Always the Husband is a challenging read that requires patience and full attention. I enjoyed the manner in which this slow-paced mystery was written and the fact that it managed to maintain my interest despite of the lack of action. If you like a book in the mystery genre that centers predominantly around the characters and the toxic relationships established between them and less around the crimes, Michele Campbell’s debut might prove an excellent choice.