The prolifically ingenious Sarah Pinborough, whose “Behind Her Eyes” chronicled a deranged love triangle with a rationality-defying last-minute surprise, has produced another twisty book about tricky characters behaving badly: DEAD TO HER (Morrow, 388 pp., $27.99), set among the upper crust of Savannah, Ga.
The heroine, the beautiful, 34-year-old Marcie, is married to the older, richer and slightly dodgy Jason, who left his first wife for her after their torrid affair. Marcie’s insecurity is stirred by the sudden arrival of the even younger and hotter Keisha, the new wife of Jason’s recently widowed (and not very bereaved, tbh) 60-something-year-old boss, William Radford IV.
Keisha radiates lust, just not toward her physically unappealing husband. (“Why couldn’t Billy just die?” she wonders.) Mysteries abound. We’re not sure if Keisha is merely an evil gold-digging opportunist, or a vulnerable ingénue being driven insane by her toxic family history and her husband’s judgmental friend group.
Also, whom is Jason secretly calling in the middle of the night? Why is Marcie so desperate to hide the story of what happened to some man named Jonny, and who is Jonny? Can people be cursed? And finally, the million dollar question surrounding the death that propels this labyrinthine tale: Was it a heart attack, or did someone really lace his coconut water with antifreeze?
There are shades of “Rebecca” and “Body Heat.” There are drug-fueled raves that were possibly orgies, though memories are foggy. There is a scary old seeress who pops up at regular intervals to hurl paranormal invective at the characters.
“I don’t think I’ve ever worked a case where my problem was having too many suspects who could all easily be guilty,” a detective says. “The issue I have is — and don’t take this personally — that you’re all such truly atrocious people.”
For readers who like this sort of thing, and I am one of them, Pinborough doesn’t reveal the answer to the biggest mystery — who is the very worst villain of the tale? — until the very end.