Undertow – Elizabeth Heathcote

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.

Released today, 1st September 2016, Undertow lays bare the story of how a husband’s past lover died in a suspicious manner. The book starts off with a seaside local finding a body washed up on the shore. She seems to have drowned. Flash forward and we meet the man who left his wife and children for Zena, and his current wife. Life seems good for Carmen and Tom. She may be out of work, but Tom is a high-flying lawyer, and her lack of employment allows her to freelance. On a trip to their coastal holiday home, in the town where Zena died, Carmen starts to notice things. People in the local shop making hushed conversation behind Tom’s back. Strange, but not too concerning. Not until someone makes a comment to her at the station regarding the woman that washed up dead, who was probably killed by her lover.
undertowElizabeth Heathcote follows a fairly tried and tested format from here. Rather than dismiss this as idle gossip, Carmen just cannot put the idea out of her mind. Rather than confront her husband, she embarks on a campaign to get to the bottom of the mystery. Undertow is a fun read, it moves along pretty well once the idea grows within Carmen, sneaking around behind Tom’s back, carrying out computer searches, covert interviews and even bluntly asking the police. And who could blame Carmen for her worries – after all, Tom has a violent past and an explosive temper.

I do have a few criticisms, small though they may be. One problem is that the first half of the book or so feels quite sluggish. It builds backstory, and gives a decent insight into the lives of Tom and Carmen, but just feels like it takes a little too long to get here.  The book feels a touch predictable. It certainly isn’t the first book I have ever read that follows the same premise. From the very outset, the author and the story are steering you in their desired direction. That’s not a bad thing, a good story teller will do this to good effect. But it was a little obvious; the narrative and all of the evidence that Carmen comes across is pointing one way – to the guilt of her husband.

But that’s okay. Predictable isn’t a bad thing, especially if the story is well written, and this one isn’t too bad at all. The thing that really knocked it back a peg for me is how it ends. It doesn’t end in the obvious direction that a story of this nature normally does. Again, not a bad thing, but the eventual ending as very much an anti-climax. The tension built with each piece of evidence uncovered leading us closer to uncovering the killer felt a little undone by the unexpected, but somewhat disappointing direction the final revelation of the book takes. Don’t get me wrong, these factors don’t make this a bad book on any level, but they do stop it from being a great book.

My rating:


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