Release date: July 28, 2020
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
SPOILER-FREE REVIEW: His & Hers is a new mystery/thriller book by Alice Feeney, the New York Times bestselling author of thrillers Sometimes I Lie and I Know Who You Are. This twisty summer read is set to be released July 28th by Flatiron Books. The tagline reads, “There are two sides to every story: yours and mine, ours and theirs, His & Hers. Which means someone is always lying.”
PLOT RUNDOWN/BASICS: Anna Andrews has happily settled in as a network news anchor for the BBC during their popular afternoon/lunch time slot. She was promoted from a correspondent position two years prior when her predecessor left on maternity leave with the first of two back-to-back babies, but now, her loyalty and hard work is about to be rewarded with…a demotion, right back to the correspondence desk. Because the previous network news anchor is back to resume her career – and with no contractual claim to a job that was never hers, Anna is forced to step down.
Fuming but resigned, Anna’s forced to trek off to fight viciously for a few precious moments of air-time while covering a rare murder in the small English village of Blackdown – where she happens to be from. Of course, no one at the BBC knows this, because no one at the BBC really knows Anna that well. Her alcoholism, her failed marriage, her previous affairs, her lost family…these are all things Anna has gotten good at keeping to herself. But it seems like someone in Blackdown remembers the past all too well, and things are about to get very out of hand, in a gruesomely murderous way.
Essentially, every character is a villain – it’s just a matter of figuring out WHICH villain is responsible for this special kind of misdeed.”
Detective Jack Harper is the head of the Major Crime Team in Blackdown, where he’s moved after leaving London to be a “big fish” in a smaller pond. His existence in the quaint village has been lackluster and less-than-thrilling so far, except for an illicit affair with one of the local women…who just so happens to wind up dead, the first victim of a brutal murderer on a rampage. No one knows about his affair, except for the person who suddenly seems to be planting evidence to suggest Jack is responsible…or are they?
Jack and Anna have a past that not everyone in their present lives knows about, with intricate threads that stretch into the current day. Both are very flawed and nearly self-destructive in nature, and they each have their own secrets from each other, as do the people closest to them. The reader must determine the truth: whose story is real, who is keeping us in the dark, and who has the biggest motive to commit such heinous murders? The reality in this twisted tale might be much murkier than you’d think.
MY THOUGHTS: This is my second read by Feeney, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading His & Hers much more than my first foray into her dark mind (which was Sometimes I Lie, and which I remember literally nothing about more than a year after reading it, which is par for the course with my brain). I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough, and it’s one of the summer thrillers that I sped through the quickest this year.
This novel is presented with three narrators; the chapters switch back and forth from “her” (Anna’s) viewpoint and “his” (Jack’s) viewpoint, à la the title of the novel. They’re interspersed with interludes throughout the novel that are written by the perpetrator of these murders, also written in the first person, and with no reveal of who the actual murderer is until the very last few pages.
Feeney is not for the faint of heart; her writing runs deep and dark, and she really wants to explore all of the blackest parts of the human psyche. She’s fascinated with secrets, and with talking about all of the different ways we can hide or change parts of ourselves to fit in and please those around us. “There is a version of me I can only ever be with myself,” the murderer writes in one the first-person admissions sprinkled throughout the novel. “I sometimes think the secret to success is the ability to adapt.”
The crime scenes and victims are brutally staged, almost theatrically so, and we learn in flashbacks how each of these victims are personally linked to both Anna and Jack. There’s sex, abuse, torture, blackmail, cheating, addiction…the list of deadly sins is nearly complete amongst both the victims and the survivors. “We’re all addicted to something: money, success, social media, sugar, sex…the list of possibilities is endless. My drug of choice just happens to be alcohol,” Anna muses.
Feeney is not for the faint of heart; her writing runs deep and dark, and she really wants to explore all of the blackest parts of the human psyche.”
Apparently, Feeney’s endings are somewhat legendary (and not necessarily in a good way) among mystery/thriller fans…which is probably why I only remember that vague unease I had when I finished her first big novel. But – speaking strictly as the reader who is continuously disappointed when I can guess the ending of most mystery novels – I can truly appreciate a master of her craft like Feeney.
Make no mistake – Feeney weaves plots so complex that it’s incredibly hard to guess an ending (or “whodunit”). The potential motives of each character cut so deep in almost every thought and memory they linger over; it’s like gazing into a house of mirrors, with a dozen inverse reflections staring back at you. (“People rarely see themselves the way others do; we all carry broken mirrors,” the murderer writes.) Feeney’s books are nothing less than a deep dive into the most (negatively) formative and emotional journeys these characters have experienced, providing them all with a richly-historied reason to kill. Essentially, every character is a villain – it’s just a matter of figuring out WHICH villain is responsible for this special kind of misdeed.
This novel featured multiple shocking reveals, a building crescendo of deception after deception that had me thinking I had everything figured out more than once…and I was wrong every single time. Only the last few pages told the truth, and immediately after finishing them, I went back and reread the first few pages…and everything fell neatly into place, like I finally had the missing pieces of a puzzle.