THE LAST MRS PARRISH
by Liv Constantine
*My thanks to the publisher from whom I received an advance copy of the book via NetGalley in return for an unbiased review*
Watch out for Amber Patterson; she is fed up with being ignored and being in the background. She's had enough of never being given a second glance by the wealthier, more glamorous women who exercise alongside her in the gym. Why shouldn't she have a life of wealth, luxury and leisure too?
And so Amber sets her sights on Daphne Parrish - well on Daphne's husband really, and puts into action a long term, cunning, manipulative and meticulously calculated plan to make sure she gets the life she thinks she deserves. She sets her sights on Jackson Parrish.
This is a good story which explores themes of envy, greed, desire, infidelity, jealousy and cruelty. It's domestic noir with an extra dose of spite.
We start the story with Amber who has very few redeeming features. Amber sets out to befriend Daphne, the golden girl of Bishops Harbour, Connecticut, slowly but surely working her way into every aspect of Daphne's life until she can catch the attention of Jackson, Daphne's husband. Her diligence, perseverance and outright nerve is impressive and it's amazing how quickly Amber instates herself in Daphne's life. It's not long before she is sharing meals with Daphne's family, squeezing out old friends and even getting herself a job in Jackson's office. There is nothing Amber will not consider doing to ensure she is Daphne's new confidant and best friend; nothing is too low or underhand to get the prize she so coverts. The lies fall fast and fall easy.
Amber's voice is very direct and strong; the sarcasm, distain and dislike for the women she interacts with was at times amusing in its bluntness or wry insight, but by and large she is actually quite unpleasant. But then we are not going to warm to Amber as she is so openly manipulating a woman who has done nothing to warrant such deception. Our sympathy and alignment is with Daphne, a woman who loves her daughters, runs a charitable organisation and shows nothing but openness and hospitality to Amber. I thought it was bold of Constantine to leave us with such an unlikeable character for so long and was intrigued to see what Constantine had in store for us.
Constantine rewards us for our patience and for enduring Amber. Just when I was getting weary of this character who was so callous and malicious, there is a change in narrative and suddenly everything Amber thinks she has been clever enough to secure, looks very fragile. Has someone discovered something about Amber's past that could undo all she has been trying to gain? Is someone else as clever, as cunning and as duplicitous as Amber? Yes, things suddenly became much more intriguing indeed....!
I liked the twists, I liked the themes and premise; I found the ending very satisfying and well executed. I liked Daphne. I would say that possibly Amber's narrative was a little over long at the beginning, but the book was very readable and kept me entertained over a couple of evenings. I think the author shows a sound understanding about how to create tension, pace, manage converging plot lines and can craft bold characters that provoke reactions from the reader. Perhaps there are echoes of other novels in this one, but stories about jealousy, envy, female friendships and the phrase "be careful what you wish for" are always going to be popular. This is definitely a book for fans of Liane Moriarty. I think it would also appeal to fans of the TV shows Doctor Foster and Liar.
The Last Mrs Parrish is published by Harper Collins on 17th October 2017.