Book Review: To Kill a Wife




to-killSynopsis: Maybe everyone would be better off without her…

Verna Hume isn’t an easy woman to be around. Her husband, Martin, knows that all too well.

Their marriage had long since died and out of spite, Verna refuses to give Martin the divorce he wants.

And in the meantime, she has numerous affairs with other men – her latest man, one Hugh Pearson of Pearson’s Electronics.

It’s then that Martin thinks: I could just kill her.

As he toys with plans to kill her, he feels a new lease of life. Everything from his career to his social life is on the up.

He starts an affair of his own – with Verna’s sister, Sue; a single mother to a wonderful little boy.

Oblivious to everything but her future with Hugh, Verna completely ignores Martin going away for the weekend.

To his surprise, when Martin returns home, he finds Verna dead; to add to the irony, he’s arrested for her murder.

It seems an easy case to the police but DI Dennis Peach doesn’t think Martin did it. And his partner Lucy Blake is in agreement.

As the pair soon discover, Verna Hume had many enemies other than Martin and Sue.

There’s her long-time business partner and friend, Barbara Harris, who had a nasty disagreement with Verna the day before her death.

There’s Hugh Pearson, who while happy to sleep with Verna was not keen on Verna’s insistence that they get married and set up home together.

There are her own parents, her father and stepmother – Dean and Alice Osbourne – whom, Verna treated awfully.

And then there are all her ex-lover.

It’s clear that Martin is innocent, his alibi watertight, and so it’s up to Peach and Blake to uncover the real murderer.

My Review:

This was my first time reading J.M. Gregson and any of the Inspector Peach series, and this was truly a fun and entertaining “whodunnit” mystery! This is the story of a miserably unpleasant and vicious woman named Verna. Verna and Martin have been unhappily married for years and she has refused to give him a divorce. So what does Martin do? He decides that he is going to kill her. Martin is falling in love with Verna’s sister, Sue and is ready to get on with his life. Verna has multiple lovers on the side, Hugh and Robert, but also has several enemies including her business partner Barbara, her Dad and Step-Mom, her sister Sue, and of course her husband Martin. After deciding to kill Verna, Martin suddenly feels rejuvenated – working harder at his career as an accountant, spending more time with friends, spending more time with Sue and her young son, and also finding the strength to ignore and/or not react to Verna’s mean and hurtful comments and actions. Martin is sent over 200 miles away one weekend to Oxford for a business conference, and when he returns that Sunday evening – he finds Verna dead. So who killed her?

I loved this mystery because Verna had angered, hurt, alienated, or pressured everyone in her life – so everyone was a potential suspect. Martin was honest from the beginning with the detectives Peach and Blake, but everyone else lied at least once about their relationship with Verna, when they last saw her and where they were at her time of death. The detectives quickly learn how many people hated Verna but keep reminding themselves that she still did not deserve to be murdered. Slowly they interview the main players, discuss findings, interview them again, and so on until their lies begin to unravel. But even after discovering how many people have lied they still can’t prove who killed her. Eventually, however, the killer decides to face the music and confesses after realizing that their alibi fell through. 

To Kill a Wife was wonderfully fast-paced and kept me guessing the entire time. Frequently in murder mysteries, it’s difficult to figure out what someone would be murdered and what possible enemies they could have had. But in this case, everyone hated this evil woman, especially her own family members. The point of view alternates throughout the novel but seems to be mainly from the detectives or Martin, however, the reader does get a few chapters from Verna’s point of view prior to her death shedding a somewhat different light. Don’t get me wrong, she was horrible, yet there are a few moments here and there when her vulnerability is exposed related to her affair with Hugh. Poor Martin literally struggles controlling laughter at the irony of his being arrested for murdering his wife, considering that he had been planning her murder in his mind but never got the chance to do it. After his release for lack of evidence he honestly doesn’t give her murder much thought, except relief to live his life and that he didn’t have to resort to killing her himself. Yes, murder is wrong, but I was with Martin on this one! He deserved some peace. 

I loved everything about this novel except for two things. First, once the killer confessed and was in custody, there was a very abrupt ending. You’re reading along on this wild ride, find out who killed her and then that’s it, the end. Which honestly, the mystery was solved so no need to go on, but I’m used to more subtle transitions and conclusions. J.M. Gregson has written several books in this series though so I would be curious to know from anyone that has read him before if this is just his standard way of wrapping things up. Secondly, the grammatical errors were off the charts. But – this was an ARC that I received prior to the publication date, so I’m hoping that these were corrected before final publication?? 

Overall I found this novel to be gripping and suspenseful from the beginning and was absolutely not able to put it down. Actually, dinner was served about an hour later than planned because I refused to cook until I finished! I cannot recommend this novel enough for someone in the mood for a fantastically puzzling murder mystery. 

*Thanks to NetGalley for providing a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. 

Purchase To Kill a Wife on Amazon. 



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