The premise of Samantha Downing’s first novel, My Lovely Wife, about a husband and wife who kill together, was such an amazing concept that I knew I wanted to put it on my tbr right away. It had all the pings for a book I wanted: morally bwuh characters, will they or won’t they get caught, and against the grain “who are we rooting for” plot.
When I was offered a spot on the He Started It blog tour by the publisher, I was very interested because Samantha Downing’s second thriller sounds, if anything, even more curious and engaging that the first. There’s a large inheritance that can only be secured under odd circumstances, estranged siblings, mysterious events of the past that only become more mysterious as we get crumbs revealed along the way.
I gobbled this book up within 36 hours. I can’t wait to see what y’all will think because I could not stop shouting about it at the close. 😂
Published: 21 July 2020
Age Group: Adult
Beth, Portia, and Eddie Morgan haven’t all been together in years. And for very good reasons—we’ll get to those later. But when their wealthy grandfather dies and leaves a cryptic final message in his wake, the siblings and their respective partners must come together for a cross-country road trip to fulfill his final wish and—more importantly—secure their inheritance.
But time with your family can be tough. It is for everyone.
It’s even harder when you’re all keeping secrets and trying to forget a memory—a missing person, an act of revenge, the man in the black truck who won’t stop following your car—and especially when at least one of you is a killer and there’s a body in the trunk. Just to name a few reasons.
But money is a powerful motivator. It is for everyone.
Physical violence/threat thereof, spousal abuse, gaslighting, blood, drugging
The setup of the novel is that the siblings (Eddie, Beth, and Portia) have to complete a road trip they once took with their grandfather in order to receive a significant inheritance (starts out at about $3m, turns out about $8m if I remember correctly). The stakes: HIGH. That alone, combined with the tension, lays out a gorgeous map of excitement. How will they ever get to the end, given that they, for all that we can tell, do not like each other? Trapped in a SUV for a cross country trip, even with millions up for grabs, is a lot.
The reality of the road trip was really neat. While, with the exception of national chains, the motels & restaurants were fictional, all of the attractions, tourist sites, and museums were real. That added another layer of interest to the plot, knowing that a) these characters were treading in places that, should the mood take you, you too could visit, and b) that these wild places were REAL. Given the reactions we are given by the characters, it seems almost impossible, but whoa!
Narrated by Beth, early on we are told certain things, primarily among them that she is not the heroine for very specific reasons. However, because she is the voice that the reader is receiving the story and their information from, it becomes almost a game to discover what can be trusted, either from her own perspective or our own. Going back and forth from the current, inheritance gathering road trip to the previous one that the siblings and their grandfather took, the reader can tell that there are hidden things. What are they? Are they true? Who is telling and who is keeping them?
Those secrets were one of my favorite thing because I didn’t see them coming, even knowing that they existed. Reveals along the way just kept coming, right up until the END. Pages from the end and still they kept coming, right when you thought things were wrapped up!
There is one character that I thought could have used a little more development. When thinking about them compared to the other characters, they came across a little lacking for me. [I’m not revealing their name just in case it could be a spoiler.]
He Started It is a fantastic way to spend a day trying to answer the best question of a thriller: what happens next?
Every time Felix mentions mayo, I think of that stripper. This is why I can’t be the heroine. A cheating wife is one of the deal breakers.
I also can’t afford to have another memory blackout . Once in my life was enough. Bad things always happen during blackouts.
“Best sleep I’ve had on this trip.” He says this like I asked him about it. “I love sleeping outdoors.” I don’t answer that. Even I have limits about lying.
Here we are, at the end, and we still don’t know who the heroine is. You’ll have to figure that one out for yourself.
Samantha Downing currently lives in New Orleans, where she is furiously typing away at her next thrilling novel.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Quotes included are from an advanced reader copy and may not reflect the finalized copy.