The Innocent Wife
I picked up Amy Lloyd’s The Innocent Wife after reading quite a few positive reviews on both Twitter and Goodreads. The story has received a ton of praise from people whose reading tastes closely align with my own, and I was eager to try it for myself. Fortunately, I got a review copy, and I can now add my voice to all the buzz surrounding this release.
Dennis Danson has been on death row for twenty years, but he proclaims his innocence almost daily. Of course, no one takes him seriously. He was convicted of murdering a young woman in his home town, and the evidence was quite damning, but Dennis refuses to give up. Eventually, someone will believe him and help him regain his freedom, or at least, that’s the belief he clings to.
Samantha is a school teacher in London. She finds it difficult to maintain healthy romantic relationships, and she fears her life will be forever at a standstill. On a whim, she logs on to an online forum created for people who believe in the innocence of Dennis Danson. Initially, Samantha doesn’t know what to think. The man has been in prison for two decades, so why are his claims of innocence just now being taken seriously? But as she learns more about Dennis’s case and the group of people who are fighting desperately to free him, she begins to believe in his innocence, too.
Soon, Samantha and Dennis are exchanging letters as often as they can, and Samantha is completely won over by him. She decides to visit him in person, so she takes a leave of absence from her job and takes off for Florida where she hopes not only to meet Dennis but also play a meaningful part in the campaign to get him released from prison.
When Samantha meets Dennis for the first time, she can’t help but admit that she’s falling in love with him. His letters may have sparked her attraction, but actually being able to spend time in his presence cements all those feelings for her. Dennis shyly confesses that he has feelings for Samantha as well, and the two are married soon after.
Life as a married woman is everything Samantha dreamed it would be. Sure, she has to visit her husband in prison, but she doesn’t seem to mind that. In fact, the reader is given the distinct impression that she actually enjoys the prestige being married to a convicted killer brings her, but things get messy when Dennis is finally released from prison on a technicality, enabling him and Samantha to truly start their lives as husband and wife. Suddenly, Samantha isn’t so sure of Dennis’s innocence. He’s very secretive, and his mood can change on a whim. Plus, he begins to control her in small ways that grow increasingly more intense the longer they’re together. Now, Samantha must face the very real possibility that the man she married isn’t at all the person she thought he was.
The Innocent Wife is a complex novel of love and lies that builds in intensity with every chapter. Like so many successful psychological thrillers, it relies on the relationships between the characters to keep it moving forward. There are definitely some action-packed moments, but they’re more the exception than the rule here. Even so, I wasn’t at all bored; Ms. Lloyd does a great job keeping the reader engaged and interested.
Samantha is a difficult character to relate to. In a lot of ways, I felt sorry for her, especially when Dennis began to exert more and more control over her actions, but I couldn’t keep from feeling like she brought a lot of what happened to her on herself. She refused to listen to anyone who spoke out against Dennis, and she was always ready to excuse his behavior, no matter how bad it was. There was an air of desperation about her, and I often struggled not to grow frustrated by things she said and did.
Some of the novel’s twists were pretty clear to me early on, but this didn’t detract much from my overall enjoyment of the story. I’ve read a lot of books like this one, and while I definitely appreciate the ones that take me completely by surprise, I don’t consider it a requirement. Ms. Lloyd did keep me guessing about a few key points, and that was enough for me. Plus, even the things I did figure out didn’t happen in the exact way I expected them to, and I ended up reading late into the night so I could see how things would turn out.
To sum up, The Innocent Wife is an intricately plotted thriller that I’m happy to recommend to fans of the genre. It may not be the most original mystery you’ll read this year, but it has quite a lot going for it just the same. Ms. Lloyd has proven herself to be a very gifted storyteller, and I’ll definitely pick up whatever she comes up with next.