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Friday, July 31, 2020

His & Hers by Alice Feeney

Flatiron Books, 308 pages, $27.99

Split narratives, unreliable narrator(s), red herrings, terrible people. Alice Feeney takes popular writing trends and gives us a much-tangled plot.

Anna Andrews is “Her” and her ex-husband DCI Jack Harper is “His.” They tell the story of their lost marriage, individual tragedies, and childhood traumas tying their past and present. It is more Anna’s story in the sense that her tale travels from her childhood with an abusive father to her present life as an alcoholic adult. But her chapters alternate with Jack’s and those of another individual, the killer.

It remains to be seen if the killer is Anna or Jack or someone else. Author Alice Feeney must have twisted herself in knots to avoid giving away the gender or motive for the murders. The murders are connected to women who were Anna’s companions when they were all teenagers. One of those companions is Jack’s younger sister, Zoe. The relationships are tangled and many, and their secrets are buried deep.

The first body found in the woods of Blackdown, England, is of Rachel, another one of those teenage friends. Only now, Rachel was an adult, a woman who had been having an affair with Jack. Jack and Anna are no longer married, so that's not a sticking point, but Jack still carries a torch for Anna. Anyway, the affair is meaningless. Until, of course, Rachel’s body is discovered just hours after she and Jack met for a little coochy-coochy in Jack’s car by the side of a forest, the forest in which Rachel’s body now lies.

Of course, of course, Jack should have recused himself from being the lead investigator, turning it over to his younger colleague, Priya Patel, a strange creature whose thought processes are never explicated, whose reactions seem overblown, and whose loyalty is a sad, sad thing. But at all costs, Jack does not want it known that he was involved. He barely wants it known that his ex-wife is one of the television reporters assigned to the case.

Author Feeney has filled a soup pot with a trendy selection of thriller and psychological elements and stirred it up. Whatever she shook out of the pot got put into the story. It wasn’t that I was confused about the story or narrative lines; rather, I was stunned by the number of elements. There were plenty of murders, hidden relationships, prior events fraught and freighted with reasons for hate, and people behaving badly.

When the killer was finally revealed, I was exhausted. I had a hard time accepting Anna’s innocence and culpability as a teenager. And that tumbled down the house of cards for me.

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