The Deadliest Denial
At five o’clock one morning two police officers awaken Claire Winslow. Her husband, Spence, also a police officer, hasn’t come home. The police, one of whom is Spence’s boss, tell Claire that Spence was arrested for plotting to murder someone. That someone is Claire.
This should have been a great opening. I know I was dying to know what would happen next. But instead of showing how Claire’s day progresses, The Deadliest Denial skips ahead three weeks. The fact that author Colleen Thompson fails to develop such an opportunity for drama goes a long way toward explaining why reading The Deadliest Denial is boring and frustrating.
When we next see her, Claire is living in the empty section of a “family compound” next to her father’s ranch. Her father is off selling the condo that she and Spence shared. Claire is beginning divorce proceedings mainly because everyone has told her to. She hasn’t seen Spence. Everyone around her, her friends and domineering father, is “protecting her.” She is so good, you see. Perfect Claire loves animals and little children. Everyone around Claire tells her she is too good, too innocent to believe how awful her husband is. She defends him, albeit weakly, but does what she is told. Separated from her husband she thinks back on her idyllic five year marriage which apparently had hit a rough spot several months before when Spence was forced to shoot a kid in the line of duty.
Claire has a lot to mourn because, apparently she and Spence had had terrific marriage, a perfect marriage. These two never had the slightest quarrel and made mad love for four and a half blissful years. Now, because they had a few tough months, Claire not only believes Spence tried to kill her, she is selling their home and without speaking to him once.
Are you buying this for one single second?
Almost every page of The Deadliest Denial is unbelievable. What woman who has lived for years in a perfect, marriage would abandon her husband? What kind of a wife obeys her father and friends when they advise her not to even see him, and plans to sell their home after just three weeks? Saying Claire is too stupid to live does a disservice to most of the TSTL heroines out there. Her mind is so good and pure that, apparently there is no room for brains. She doesn’t notice that father hates her husband. (Could this be some kind of clue to what is going on?) He gives Claire a gun with which to kill Spence if he shows up and Claire takes it and plans to use it. With a sweet wife like Claire, Spence doesn’t need enemies.
Spence has a restraining order against him. Naturally he has to “explain” everything to Claire, so he violates it the minute he is free, and risks his neck to see her. Spence tells Claire that when the marriage trouble started he was depressed and he became…a compulsive gambler! That’s why he was so secret. What a relief for Claire! It wasn’t that he was trying to kill her. But it’s not that big a deal because he loves her. Sigh. How romantic.
Claire is such a moron she doesn’t think being a compulsive gambler is that big a deal. It’s only money, right? She’s disappointed in him of course, but, as long as her loves her it’s okay.
See what I mean by unbelievable?
The writing in The Deadliest Denial is as terrible as the characterization. Claire and Spence speak in a kind of sentimental drivel that went out long ago. Here is Claire telling Spence that she needs to protect her horses: “I have to keep them safe.” The words spilled out like a broken strand of beads. “What happened earlier today, I let those animals down.”
Ah, Claire, always thinking of animals…
Then Claire and Spence argue over who can sacrifice the most for the other, beginning with Spence:
“This isn’t your fight anymore Claire. It can’t be.
She binked back tears, “I won’t give up on you.”
“If you won’t file for divorce, I’ll do it. You aren’t about to change my mind on this.”
Claire at this particular moment has apparently forgotten that she already has Daddy Dearest, her evil father attorney, beginning divorce proceedings against Spence. And Spence has forgotten why he risked everything to be with Claire. But then they have just had mad, very un-marital sex. (“He knew what drove her wild better than she knew herself.”) This was the kind of sex they had before poor Spence was overwhelmed with the guilt of shooting a kid and became a compulsive gambler.
The end of The Deadliest Denial is predictable. But, by the time I finished the book I did not care who the villain was. I just wanted it to be over. Getting to the end became a kind of painful test that no reader should have to endure.