Book Review: Imperfect Women by Araminta Hall
By Ray PalenSeptember 24, 2020
The latest psychological thriller from Araminta Hall, Imperfect Women, explores guilt and retribution, love and betrayal, and the compromises we make that alter our lives irrevocably.
Author Araminta Hall had the difficult task of following up her previous novel, Our Kind of Cruelty, which was voted the best book of 2018 by both Crime Reads and Real Simple. I am pleased to say that her current release titled Imperfect Women is a different kind of novel but just as twisty of a psychological thriller as its’ predecessor.
Like the title itself, this novel is told to us from the point of view of three different women, all close friends but each prone to their own foibles. They also each have their own secrets which keep the reader on their toes as they try to decipher what actually happened and who is to blame. Imperfect Women becomes a murder mystery when one of the women is violently killed and it takes all three narratives collectively to try and piece together the complete story.
The first of the three parts of the novel is narrated by Eleanor. She is woken up a little past 4 AM by a phone call from Robert, the husband of her friend Nancy. Eleanor had dinner with Nancy the night before and then Nancy departed for a meeting with her lover who she has been attempting to break things off with. Not knowing if Robert was aware of Nancy’s infidelity or not, she merely tells him that they left their dinner separately and that was that. Nancy never came home and Robert was quite concerned. A little before dawn, two members of the local Police Force come to Robert’s home to let him know that the body of a woman has been found and she is carrying identification indicating that she might be his wife, Nancy. They need him to come down to the station both for identification purposes and to answer some questions.
Eleanor accompanies Robert to the Police Station and it is a good thing she is there for support and to assist in positively identifying the body. The cause of death appeared to be a blow to the back of the head. Eleanor learns that Robert was aware of Nancy’s affair and that she was seeking to end things. When asked, Eleanor indicates that Nancy kept things pretty close to the vest and all she knows is that she referred to her lover merely as David. Being single, Eleanor has time to stick her nose into the case and try to find out who this David is. All Eleanor knew was that Nancy worked in the book publishing business and she could only find one author that she worked with who is named Davide. In addition to spending time as an amateur investigator, Eleanor also finds herself in the uncomfortable position of dating and eventually sleeping with the widower of her deceased friend as she and Robert get involved with each other.
The next section of Imperfect Women is narrated by the victim, Nancy. Unfortunately, we do not learn much more about David or his true identity. What we do find out is that Robert was very aware of Nancy’s infidelity — although they did a nice job of keeping it secret from their only child, a daughter who was away at Oxford for college. We get some historical perspective on their relationship, particularly after the birth of their daughter and up to the point where Nancy suggests she return to the workforce. Robert is very traditional and hoped that Nancy would have similar traditional feelings towards staying home and playing the mother/housewife role. Readers get to see some resentment between the two as well as some physical distancing that might explain Nancy’s eventual straying. What we still are not given is a real reason for Nancy’s murder other than the fact that her lover may have been angry enough at her for breaking things off to possibly kill her. The very last line of Nancy’s section is her looking up at the person she assumed was going to be her lover and stating: “Oh God, what are you doing here?”
The final section of this trio of narrators is from the perspective of Mary. Mary is the skinny, diminutive friend of Eleanor and Nancy. She is married with a few children and the only time we really see interaction with her is during Eleanor’s section where she commiserates with Mary first about Nancy’s mysterious infidelity and then later about their friend’s violent murder. There is simply too much revealed in Mary’s section to discuss here without giving away major spoilers. Let’s just leave it that the imperfections of these three women (as indicated in Araminta Hall’s very accurate title) become quite apparent as the plot unwinds. The cumulative sum of all three narratives makes for a fine read with enough psychological tension and thrills to produce a quite satisfying summer read.