15 December 2023

Review: Kill Your Husbands by Jack Heath

Kill Your Husbands by Jack Heath book cover

* Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin *

Australian author Jack Heath is back in the charts and on my reading schedule with Kill Your Husbands this month. Heath is known for writing gritty and gruesome crime novels - like the Timothy Blake series - as well as killer adventure books for kids, but this latest novel feels like a shift into a new writing style as he ventures into contemporary psychological thriller and domestic noir territory.

Kill Your Husbands focuses around three couples and I'll admit it took me a while to cement the different personalities, their individual relationship dynamics and variously intersecting backstories. Once I was able to do that, it became even harder to figure out what the hell was going on.

Setting out for a short digital detox getaway in New South Wales, a couples swap goes wrong when one of the party ends up dead. Moments of laughter like this break up the tension in this whodunnit:
'I'm told he was a bit of a larrikin.' 'You mean a dickhead.' Kiara gives a slight nod. Page 218
I didn't warm to any of the characters as their various egos, undercurrents of jealousy and envy along with the competitive nature of their friendships was sickening to read. All six characters in this isolation thriller were flawed and unlikeable and as a result I wasn't invested in their survival.

There were some interesting character insights, but these weren't the sort of people I would ever have as friends or regularly choose to associate with.
"It hadn't seemed very funny at the time - kind of mean, actually. But fifteen years later, he found himself laughing along, not because it was clever but because it was a shared memory. The past was like that, tragedy becoming comedy. Sometimes he heard a song from his youth on the radio, and even though he'd hated it back then, he'd sing along. The act of remembering gave him joy." Pages 62-62
I think Kill Your Husbands has all of the juicy elements of an international bestseller, (I'm thinking Ruth Ware level here) however I'll admit to being a Heath purist; if there's such a thing. For me that means I prefer to read his 'shock and awe' style of writing, the way he's able to make characters say and do things no author - I read - is doing. Heath has the skill to make me laugh while making me recoil and writing plots that make my jaw drop. 'That' wasn't here in Kill Your Husbands, and while some readers will appreciate the 'gore left at the door' approach, I genuinely missed it.

Jack Heath is an 'auto-read' Australian author for me and I suspect he'll attract a wider reading audience with Kill Your Husbands which can only be a good thing for readers. It's rare that an author can adapt to so many writing styles and I'm excited to see when he next releases a book 'for me'.

My Rating:

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