'The Blame Game' by Sandie Jones
I think this is a niche in domestic suspense that I'm coming to learn I have no appetite for whatsoever. Rather than rely on believable coincidences and commonsense mistakes to lead its characters to an unimaginable conundrum, we have a central plot and character who at just about every single turn makes irrational decisions that have her, predictably, even more deeply mired in trouble. Characters do irrational things all the time, it's true. But I need them to be relatable in their irrationality, where you read it and think, 'That's dumb. But I totally might have done the same thing.' The death knell came for me when there was an equally irrational series of events that conspired to keep her in peril. And when, eventually, the Big Reveal comes, it's a whopper of an eye-roller.
It took a lot of persistence for me to keep going back to this book and listening further, and at the end I was relieved to be done. A lot of my impatience was the use of the device of painstaking description to elicit suspense, even when describing small tasks. You know what I mean. Sentences like: "I folded the napkin three times, making a small square of it before putting it in the drawer to the left of the dishwasher. Always the one on the left, because my husband cares deeply about where we keep the napkins." (This isn't from the book, it's my silly example, but you get the point.) I think it may be the literary equivalent of watching a horror film where the director zooms in on seemingly innocuous moments and objects, to psyche you into giving them significance, or to heighten a sense of impending doom. Nevertheless, I found it tedious in this instance because at least for me it came across as filler and ultimately didn't create the same emotions as it often does on film.
I believe domestic suspense can be written with eyebrow-raising moments where an antagonist engages in gaslighting (moving objects, sending anonymous letters, assuming other identities, etc.) without it coming across as campy, but IMO that wasn't accomplished here. The most difficult thing about writing this review is that I actually believe this is probably a very fine writer. Just not one who writes the kinds of books that appeal to me.
My rating: ⭑⭑