When a debut novel wins a prize pre-publication, it sets my expectations high. Happily, Amy Lloyd’s The Innocent Wife doesn’t disappoint and justifies all the attention. Here’s what it’s about:
Twenty years ago, Dennis Danson was arrested and imprisoned for the brutal murder of a young girl in Florida’s Red River County. Now he’s the subject of a true-crime documentary that’s whipping up a frenzy online to uncover the truth and free a man who has been wrongly convicted.
A thousand miles away in England, Samantha is obsessed with Dennis’s case. She exchanges letters with him, and is quickly won over by his apparent charm and kindness to her. Soon she has left her old life behind to marry him and campaign for his release.
But when the campaign is successful and Dennis is freed, Sam begins to discover new details that suggest he may not be quite so innocent after all.
But how do you confront your husband when you don’t want to know the truth?
If you’ve ever wondered what kind of person writes to, let alone marries, a convicted murderer, then Amy Lloyd offers up a credible contender in Samantha. It’s easy to trace and accept how this clearly not stupid, grown woman is drawn in by Dennis and his campaign.
Sam comes with her own issues, sometimes being too weak and reactive, or jealous and needy, and her own skeletons (though they’re only figurative compared to Dennis’ real ones). And in giving her these, Amy Lloyd ensures we see her as a real person and possibly not as wholly innocent as the title suggests.
Things start innocently enough though, when Sam’s introduced to the world of true-crime documentaries by her then boyfriend and they watch one about Dennis. It’s what follows, through Sam’s need to know more about his case and how this escalates, which makes The Innocent Wife such compulsive reading. Read more