Amanda Bonham moved halfway around the world to be with the man she loves. Although expat life in Singapore can be difficult, Edward Bonham is a dream husband and a doting father to his teenage daughter, Josie.
But when their maid dies in an apparent suicide—and Amanda discovers the woman was pregnant and hiding a stash of drugs prescribed to Edward—she can’t help but wonder if her perfect husband has a fatal flaw. And if he can’t resist temptation under their own roof, what does he get up to when he travels?
Camille Kemble also has questions for Edward. Recently returned to Singapore, Camille is determined to resolve a family mystery. Amid a jumble of faded childhood memories, she keeps seeing Edward’s handsome face. And she wants to know why.
For one woman, the search for answers threatens everything she has. For another, it’s the key to all she lost. Both will follow his trail of secrets into the darkness to find the truth.
Wow, this one really had me gripped, but where to start without giving too much away. It’s certainly a complex novel, with lots going on. So much so, it’s nigh on impossible to pin it down to any one genre. It’s part mystery, part psychological thriller, part dysfunctional family drama and just for good measure there’s murder thrown in. Don’t mistake that as a criticism for it not knowing what it wants to be, I think the author handles the themes very well, and knows exactly what she is doing. In addition setting the novel against a background of expat life in Singapore, offers its own surprises, not least of which is the almost chattel like status of many married women. Little wonder then, that the sub plot of the exploitation of foreign maids and helpers is one that raises little concern in certain areas.
The book opens with the death of the Bonham’s maid in an apparent suicide. Even though Amanda is not a bad employer, her death makes her realise how little she knows about her maid, and indeed, about exactly what might have been going on under her roof. This starts her on a journey, during which, what she perceives to be the truth about her husband, and her troubled stepdaughter will gradually unravel with dramatic consequences.
The discovery of the truth, throughout the book is such that as the reader we never really know exactly how much is truth and how much perception. The story as it unfolds, is told alternatively from the viewpoints of Camille and Amanda. Yet both characters are somewhat unreliable narrators as their truth is coloured by their past experiences or current concerns.
Camille has returned to Singapore to work as a press officer at the British High Commission. Behind this move is her obsession to seek the truth about the disappearance of her parents 15 years ago. Her enforced return to England as a child, along with her brother, was a traumatic experience that has left her constantly wanting answers, not only about her parents, but their beloved maid. This latter results in her involvement with H.E.L.P. an organisation promoting the rights of foreign domestic workers. When the Bonham’s maid is found dead, she is curious as to why and finds herself getting involved, especially when she believes she knows Edward Bonham.
Amanda, is the ‘trailing spouse’ of the title. A term used to describe a person who follows their partner because of a work, and it’s particularly associated with those in an expatriate situation. For many women it’s a life of leisure, of morning coffees, book clubs, lunches and social media ‘friendship’ groups. Yet it’s also one of superficiality and gossip so that Amanda is reluctant to reveal too much about personal life and concerns, leaving her without a confidante and support when things start unravelling.
It’s a book that will have you questioning everything, and everyone right until the bitter end, when the truth is finally uncovered. It would make a great Book Club read because of the questions it raises and the themes it introduces. I found it a cracking read and certainly look forward to more from this author.