Review: THE MOTHER-IN-LAW by Sally Hepworth
Also by this author: The Family Next Door
Published by St. Martin's Press on April 23, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
THE MOTHER-IN-LAW Review
Sally Hepworth is quickly becoming a go-to author for me when I’m in the mood for domestic dramas and mysteries. Her latest novel, The Mother-In-Law is no exception, with Hepworth delivering both a compelling family drama as well as a riveting mystery.
The novel focuses on two women, Diana and Lucy. Diana is Lucy’s mother-in-law and the two of them have a very uncomfortable relationship, to put it mildly. Even though they have known each other for 10 years, Diana still treats Lucy like a stranger. Lucy can’t figure out why Diana seems to hate her so much and at a certain point, has just given up on trying. Lucy and her husband Oliver have a good life together, only making contact with Diana when necessary, and such is their life. That is, until a phone call from the police informs them that Diana is dead and that it is an apparent suicide based on some evidence found at the scene. Lucy and Oliver are shocked because Diana is the most formidable person they’ve ever known and the last person they would expect to commit suicide. When the coroner’s report comes back, however, the possibility that it was actually murder is suddenly on the table and the police begin investigating.
So many questions immediately start swirling about. If Diana did take her own life, why? If foul play was involved, who could possibly want to hurt her and why?
If you like complicated characters, then this is your book because Diana is about as complicated as they come. She has devoted much of her life to charitable causes and is a beloved and respected member of her community because of this. Diana’s altruistic nature does not apparently extend to her actual family members. Even though she’s a very wealthy woman, Diana expects her children to stand up on their own two feet and make lives for themselves without handouts from her. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it certainly creates some uncomfortable and tense moments when her children find themselves struggling. It doesn’t make Diana the easiest character to warm up to, but it definitely made me curious about her.
Where Diana is a character that is hard to warm up to, Lucy, on the other hand, is a character I loved immediately. She lost her mother to cancer when she was only 13 years old, so when Lucy falls in love with Diana’s son Oliver and agrees to marry him, she’s over the moon about meeting Diana. She can’t wait to finally have a mother-figure back in her life and goes out of her way to make sure she’s as likeable as possible at their first meeting. Her dream is shattered immediately, however, when it becomes clear Diana has no interest in her. It’s not that Diana is mean to Lucy because that’s not her nature, it’s more that she’s completely standoffish – as polite as she knows she has to be, but otherwise, basically a cold fish. Their relationship starts off that way, and even after 10 years of marriage, it’s still pretty much the same. This made me immediately sympathetic to Lucy and had me shaking my head at Diana and saying “OMG, why are you like this?”
Aside from the way Hepworth draws her characters, one of my favorite parts of The Mother-In-Law is how she weaves together her tale. She effectively moves the story back and forth between the different characters’ perspectives, particularly Diana’s and Lucy’s, and between the past and present to gradually paint for her readers not only a complete portrait of Diana, but also toward the answer that we are ultimately all waiting for: what really happened to Diana. I thought Hepworth’s choice of these elements was a perfect way to unravel both the mystery of Diana herself and of her death. Getting little glimpses into Diana’s earlier life gave me a much greater understanding as to why she’s the way she is, which in turn made me more sympathetic to her.
Other highlights of The Mother-In-Law for me were its quick pacing, its suspenseful plot twists, and the fact that the story was never predictable. The ending, in particular, shocked me because I didn’t see it coming, not even for a single second!
Sally Hepworth’s The Mother-In-Law is a riveting read from start to finish. Unraveling the mystery of Diana and why she is the way she is kept me turning the pages just as much as the desire to know what happened to her and if anyone else was responsible. Hepworth’s books have been compared to those of Liane Moriarty, and I think the comparison is a good one. If you’re into domestic dramas and mysteries with plenty of twists and turns, The Mother-In-Law is the perfect read for you. It definitely made me appreciate how simple and uncomplicated my relationship with my own mother-in-law is.
Someone once told me that you have two families in your life – the one you are born into and the one you choose. Yes, you may get to choose your partner, but you don’t choose your mother-in-law. The cackling mercenaries of fate determine it all.
From the moment Lucy met Diana, she was kept at arm’s length. Diana is exquisitely polite, but Lucy knows, even after marrying Oliver, that they’ll never have the closeness she’d been hoping for.
But who could fault Diana? She was a pillar of the community, an advocate for social justice, the matriarch of a loving family. Lucy had wanted so much to please her new mother-in-law.
That was ten years ago. Now, Diana has been found dead, leaving a suicide note. But the autopsy reveals evidence of suffocation. And everyone in the family is hiding something…
From the bestselling author of The Family Next Door comes a new page-turner about that trickiest of relationships.