Australian crime and thriller author Jack Health loves a good puzzle. The main character of his Timothy Blake series is not only a cannibal but also solves riddles. And his new series revels in twists, double twists and long gestating set ups. The first book in this series, Kill Your Brother, introduced Elise and her detective partner Kiara. That first book provides some context for Elise and Kiara’s relationship and in particular the current tensions in it, and Warrigal, the rural setting in which they live. Despite that, Kill Your Husbands, can easily be read as a standalone mystery thriller.
Kill Your Husbands opens with a woman fleeing the scene of a murder and two other characters being discovered in a stand-off around a knife. The three were part of a group of six, three couples, who rented an out-of-the-way house (no phone or internet) for a weekend getaway. Now two of the men are dead and one of the women is missing. Detective Kiara is brought in to investigate and as part of that investigation decides to take traumatised partner Elise on a weekend away to the house where the murders happened. She also wants to use the getaway as a way of helping repair their relationship which appears to be faltering. Suffice to say things do not go as planned. In around this story is the backstory of the three couples, told from various points of view in the lead up to and through the mayhem of their weekend away.
Kill Your Husbands is a pure puzzlebox mystery. Heath maintains some of the tension by a bit of a contrivance – in the present sections characters refer to the three couples only by their surnames while in the flashback chapters they refer to each other only by first names. This makes it difficult to work out exactly just who was killed, who is missing and who survived until it is revealed in the flashbacks. Those flashbacks show three rocky relationships and a bizarre agreement to partner swap, an agreement which not only results in tragedy but muddies the waters as to who is responsible. Suffice to say that Heath leads readers through a range of suspects as he unravels the mystery. And as with Kill Your Brother, no detail in the story, no matter how seemingly irrelevant, goes to waste.
Kill Your Husbands is fun but relies on a few too many contrivances and questionable character motives and beats to be completely successful. As with Kill Your Brother, though, that probably won’t matter to most readers as they whip through the pages. Because one thing Heath knows how to do well is keep readers hooked, get them to commit to what they think the solution to the mystery is going to be, and then pull the rug out from under them and get them to start all over again.