Book Review: Undertow by Elizabeth Heathcote

undertowWhat’s it about?

My husband’s lover. They said her death was a tragic accident. And I believed them . . . until now.

Carmen is happily married to Tom, a successful London lawyer and divorcé with three children. She is content to absorb the stresses of being a stepmother to teenagers and the stain of ‘second wife’. She knows she’ll always live in the shadow of another woman – not Tom’s first wife Laura, who is resolutely polite and determinedly respectable, but the lover that ended his first marriage: Zena. Zena who was shockingly beautiful. Zena who drowned swimming late one night.

But Carmen can overlook her husband’s dead mistress . . . until she starts to suspect that he might have been the person who killed her.

I managed to get an advanced review copy of this book from the Rooftop Book Club event back in April from the publisher.  My daughter came with me and she started reading it on the way home while it’s taken me somewhat longer to read it.  Here’s what we thought:

Here’s Emily’s thoughts:

As part of attending the Roof Top Book Club we were given goodie bags which included four proof copies of books which are to come out later this year. So on the underground on the way back to the car I decided to start reading one of these books. I picked Undertow by Elizabeth Heathcote because it sounded the most easiest to get stuck into on the trip home. However, if this book was on a shelf I don’t think I’d pick it up, the cover nor the title drew me in.

Half way through the book I realised I didn’t actually understand what the title meant. It’s been defined as

  1. The seaward, subsurface flow or draft of water from waves breaking on a beach.
  2. Any strong current below the surface of a body of water, moving in a direction different from that of the surface current.

This definition clearly relates to the book as links to Zena’s drowning but also can relate to breaking of Carmen and Tom’s relationship and strong waves it is going through as Carmen discovers more about Zena’s death.

I finished this book really quickly in just over 24 hours, which is quite impressive for me as I am not an avid reader like my mom. This book was easy to read and of course there is suspense and drama which intrigues you and you want to find out more as you read. However, in the blurb this book is said to be for fans of Disclaimer and Apple Tree Yard – for me Apple Tree Yard was so much better.

The whole way through this book you are meant to believe Tom killed Zena after doubt is planted in Carmen’s mind. Obviously there are other twist and turns which add to Carmen’s doubt. But the whole way through the focus is on Tom, so much so it’s unbelievable. Which as a reader you then start to suspect who else could of murdered Zena – or even if she was murdered at all . . .

My thoughts

The book starts off with a real fast paced gripping opening but then tapers off until the last few pages.  It’s simplistic in tone and style, which is not necessarily a bad thing as it makes it a quick read, at the end of the day you don’t want to be bogged down by long technical fancy words in a suspense novel when you just want to get to the next page as quickly as possible.

Carmen, our protagonist, has far too much time on her hands and therefore too much time to think and delve deeper into her husband’s past.  The majority of what she does I felt was quite realistic but for me it did go a little into the too far-fetched category.  Lets face it, if you go snooping through someone’s emails and phone messages , expect to find something you don’t necessarily want to see, and do you really want to find out?

Overall a decent enough did he or didn’t he suspense novel but didn’t feel groundbreaking.

Book links: Goodreads | Amazon

Author links: Twitter | Goodreads

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