The Serial Killer’s Wife by Robert Swartwood grabs reader attention right away with a catchy title. Given that a serial killer might have a wife, is she then automatically either willingly or unwillingly an accomplice? We learn in the first few pages that Sarah Walter is working as a teacher’s assistant, so she must not have been considered an accomplice. But Sarah is also Elizabeth Piccione and Elizabeth’s husband is in jail for multiple murders. Serial killers once caught tend to attract publicity and Eddie’s trial had plenty of that. Despite not truly believing Eddie had done such a thing, there had been absolutely no hints of violent behavior and no spousal abuse, Elizabeth felt she and son Matthew had to disappear. She enlisted two close friends to help her, changed her name, and fled from all the publicity in order to provide a more normal life for her son. But there were those that felt by fleeing she had admitted complicity in the crime. Several people with different motives wanted to find her. The one that she feared the most was a self-serving author/journalist/blogger, Clarence Applegate.
Elizabeth was sure that it was Clarence who had kidnapped Matthew, tied him to a chair, taped his mouth shut, and placed a bomb in the form of a collar around her son’s neck. The addition of a countdown clock subtracting hours from its start of 100 hours terrified Elizabeth. She had just 100 hours to recover the trophies from the serial killings done by her husband; the trophies were to be handed over to Clarence. Was Clarence an obsessed fan of serial killer Eddie? Did he have evil designs on wife Elizabeth? Or was he just a frustrated author who had not been able to complete his greatest novel about a serial killer; vital information needed by Clarence had disappeared with Elizabeth. Clarence had come up with a plan. He found Elizabeth in the persona of Sarah. He had threatened Matthew with death and sent pictures of the death clock attached to Matthew each hour to Elizabeth. She didn’t even know of the trophies and even if they existed she had no way to know where they were. She had 100 hours to solve a lot of mysteries.
Elizabeth had to contact friends for help. Her best friend Julia and defense attorney Mark Foreman might help. Former employer Donovan “Van” Riley might contribute the skills that were not always on the right side of the law. Even the prosecuting attorney might help by getting her into the prison to talk to her husband about the trophy question. There was one complication. Everyone she talked to ended up dead within hours of her contact.
Up to this point, this has been a very good story as backgrounds of principals are revealed. The reader may become dismayed as every character that could be of help meets an untimely end. It’s good for Elizabeth that she at least has romantic interest Todd as her best friend helping with the investigation. My naturally warped mind wondered if they would at least consummate their relationship before he met his untimely end. Up to now, this was a fast-moving, entertaining novel that I did not want to put down.
And then came the surprises, delivered with almost machine-gun speed. For me, it was not one surprise, or two, or three … There could have been several surprise endings. I found five possibilities. I gave this novel five stars because of all the twists on top of the good writing. The twists were all plausible. Read this novel to refresh your appreciation for well-written mysteries.