Book Title: Undertow
Author: Elizabeth Heathcote
REVIEWED BY: MARY
Genres: Mystery, Suspense, Fiction
Date Read: 06/13/17
Pub Date: 06/13/17
They said her death was a tragic accident. And I believed them…until now.
Carmen is happily married to Tom, although she knows she’ll always live in the shadow of another woman—the mistress who ended his first marriage: Zena. Mercurial, mesmerizing, manipulative Zena—a woman who, Carmen begins to discover, had the potential to incite the darkest of emotions. Zena, who drowned in the sea late one night.
Zena seems ever-more present, even in death, and when Carmen unknowingly stumbles on evidence that her husband has not been telling her the whole truth, she can’t shake her unease. As she uncovers documents and photographs, a very different tale than the one Tom has led her to believe begins to unfold, and she finds herself increasingly isolated and paranoid. As the twisted events of that night begin to come to light, Carmen must ask herself if it’s really a truth worth knowing…even if it destroys her and the lives of the people she loves most.
First, may I say, this cover is AMAZING! I spent a solid 5 minutes staring at it before I started reading. It is equals parts beautiful and chilling. I couldn’t wait to start reading to see if the insides matched the outsides.
As a kid my mom passed on wisdom to me that so many mothers pass on to their children: winners never cheat and cheaters never win, honesty is the best policy, the farther you stray from the truth the harder it becomes to recognize, don’t gossip, treat others the way you want to be treated, stand up for yourself, and so on. As I got older, I learned that there are gray areas and loop holes that come with those statements. Little white lies told to spare someone’s feeling are sometimes acceptable, even gracious and well mannered. No one wants to tell Grandma that they in fact HATE Baklava because that would have be rude, she’d worked so hard making it, so you smile, say you love it and promptly put it in the trash once she leaves. Lies come in all shapes and sizes and some are more menacing than others. The most confusing type of lie, in my humble opinion, is lying by omission. I didn’t lie, I just didn’t tell you. That’s not really a lie at all…is it?
Tom and Carmen have a loving marriage and Carmen does her best to navigate relationships with Tom’s 3 children from his previous marriage. It’s a modern family where the adults act like grown ups and the children shuffle between homes and everyone tries to adjust to the new normal. Carmen met Tom after his marriage ended. She met him after the woman he’d left his wife for had died. It was a sad story, with a tragic end, Zena had gone for a swim and drown, her body washed ashore days later. Carmen came along after all of that despair. Tom brightened when he met Carmen, it was as though she breathed new life into him, and he loved her almost instantly.
As the years passed and Carmen and Tom settled into their marriage, they began to make plans for the future. They spoke of starting a family and when Carmen lost her job, it seemed only natural to Tom that she stay home and do freelance writing rather than seek out another full time job. With a baby, she would want to have flexible hours and freelance allowed her to make her own schedule, Tom made enough to support them. It was logical. But as time goes on and freelance opportunities become fewer and fewer, Carmen finds herself searching for ways to keep herself busy. Once a focused and hardworking journalist, she finds herself feeling lost and growing restless. When she hears a particular piece of gossip about how Tom’s former lover met her demise, that it wasn’t an accident at all, she’s shaken. She decides to dig a little deeper into this theory, thinking she’ll find answers that ease her mind. When the opposite happens, Carmen finds herself on a journey for the truth, one that could end her marriage, end her plans for the future, possibly even her life.
UNDERTOW is a captivating thriller that is full of red herrings and suspenseful twists. I love how the characters are all so closely connected, it offered a wide range of theories as to how and why Zena, a strong swimmer, drowns during an evening swim she had taken so many times before. As each character reveals a new layer of their personality and each new piece of information from the past is revealed, I found myself scrambling to form a new scenario of how death found Zena. As the suspense ramped up, Carmen’s fear seemed to leap off the page and become palpable. More than once I found myself jumping in reaction to a nighttime noise, double checking the locks and making sure the alarm was set. Carmen struggles to define the gray area between secrets and lies in order to find the truth. But the harder she digs, that darker things become. Her once beautiful life has now become a chilling nightmare, one she may not be able to escape.
UNDERTOW is a thrilling page-turner that pairs well 19 Crimes Cabernet and mom’s old advice. I give it 4 Stars and am happy to report that the insides do indeed match the chilling beauty of the outside.
*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my copy; it was a pleasure to provide my honest thoughts here.