I’m not really sure why I keep reviewing thrillers/mystery books. It isn’t because I don’t like them because I do. I absolutely LIVE for that head canon that comes when the entire script is flipped and, as a reader, you feel exhilarated and betrayed and thrilled and… a zillion other things. No, my issues don’t stem from reading these amazing books, my issue is the review. There are so many little nuanced details that I don’t want to giveaway and ruin the experience, but I also desperately need to gush over the brilliance.
That said, let’s see what I can do to adequately gush enough to appease my readerly soul and also keep the mystery alive for those who read.
And let me tell you… read you should.
Full disclosure: This is told in first person present tense which is NOT my cup of tea and, at times, I did find annoying.
In some ways, Unfaithful is… a slightly misleading title. Is adultery a pretty important plot point? Yes. However… that is far from being the only one and there are several major points that actually vie for top billing.
Anna’s life is… a picture perfect disaster. She is an assistant professor at a small Ohio university. Everything in her life that seems so idyllic from the outside is slowly (and sometimes rapidly) crumbling.
Her career: Alex, the student that was going to write a thesis with her name attached that would give her major notoriety died. After informing her that he was removing her from the paper. Anna was then passed over for a full professorship and also works under a department chair that redefines misogynistic and employs countless abusive tactics to bully and manipulate her.
Her coworkers/friends: I’m going to be honest… I had reservations about June. I thought she was just a bit too sweet, a little too much of a perfect best friend, and just a touch too there for Anna in all respects. I was waiting for June to pull off the proverbial mask and prove that she was secretly behind all the disasters happening in Anna’s life.
Her parents: Her dad is dead and her mom is an abusive and manipulative woman who set her 12 year old daughter out to solve an impossible math problem as a means of earning her the privilege of… having friends.
And, finally, her family: Her husband is, as the title and blurb say, having an affair. Who the other woman is is revealed fairly early on in the story and not a huge shock. It makes complete sense. How this “problem” is resolved is… definitely not an ending I saw coming.
All in all, I loved my read of Unfaithful (or listen since I had the audiobook version). It kept me guessing and wondering exactly as a good psychological thriller should. So if I loved it so much it should be an easy 5 star for me, right? Unfortunately… no.
Most of the ending was wrapped up perfectly and believably and I was more than satisfied with it. But (you knew there had to be a but right?) the entire story line revolving around Alex was ended in… an unbelievable way. If his motives were what was stated in the book for choosing to end his life… why call Anna over to announce he was taking her name off the paper? And even my suspension of disbelief is tested by the explanation of the conjecture solution. Just… no. That was far, far, far too convenient for me to believe and after the excellent thrill ride that was the entire story leading up to that point? I was very disappointed in how that particular plot was wrapped up.
The only other thing that is keeping me from giving a full five stars is… language. This is going to sound incredibly nitpicky of me, and perhaps this stood out more because I was listening to the audio version rather than reading the written story, but the author is not an American writing an American story, which is cool. However when there is language and verbiage used that is clearly not American, it takes me a bit out of the story and confuses me, wondering if I missed something along the way. For example a Band-Aid is called a plaster in the story and several characters say, “Search me” when asked about something they don’t know rather than “Beats me” which would be a more typical American saying. I know that sounds like SUCH a ridiculous complaint to have, but it did affect my read and my ability to stay immersed in the story.
Since this is an audio book, I want to comment on the narrator as well and that will be a simple review. She is excellent and I love her. Honestly her inflections, her voice changes for different characters, and her cadence were all just so exceptionally perfect. I was impressed and a huge fan of her read.