NB: I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for a review.
Blurb: Two strangers – a Black woman and a white woman – who discover that each has a husband she’d be better off without, find their lives entangled in increasingly sinister ways following one fateful encounter, leading to a shocking and violent conclusion.
Tasha and Madison may live in different parts of the country and have different everyday realities, but they have one thing in common: marriages they need out of. Tasha and Madison want to help each other, but they have very different ideas of what that means…The women are on a collision course that will end in the case files of the D.C. MPD homicide unit. Unravelling the truth of what really happened may be impossible…and futile. Because what has the truth ever done for women like Tasha and Madison?
Combining dark humour with classic domestic thriller tropes, Not So Perfect Strangers offers a fresh take on a classic story, in a brilliantly updated homage to Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train. Featuring a cast of diverse female leads living in modern America, L.S. Stratton’s latest release delves into pressing contemporary issues regarding feminism, gender dynamics, racism, and the white saviour complex.
Trigger warning: the book contains descriptions of domestic violence, grooming, and childhood sexual abuse. Please take care while reading.
From the very first page, this book is a thrilling and fast-paced adventure that will have you on the edge of your seat or sat up straight in bed reading late into the night.
Madison and Tasha come from very different worlds - Madison is one half of a Washington D.C. power couple, while Tasha is pulling herself up by her bootstraps. What they have in common, though, is that they want to escape their marriages - albeit for different reasons. Madison's husband is serially cheating on her, while Tasha is being emotionally and physically abused by her husband.
Tasha has just escaped from her husband, taking her son with her, when she discovers that her son has decided to go back home to his father. Tasha, wishing to protect him, follows him home despite knowing what is in store for her. En route, she discovers a desperate Madison wanting to leave her husband.
Sometime later, Madison offers Tasha a shocking proposal - she will kill Tasha's husband if Tasha returns the favour. Shocked, Tasha leaves but with the impression that she has agreed to the deal. When Tasha doesn't reciprocate, Madison becomes increasingly htreatening.
Tasha and Madison are equally brilliantly written characters. It would be very easy to make them 2D characters - one, the submissive and downtrodden one, and the other, a hysterical psychopath. But the author imbues and layers both characters with much more nuance than that and we have insights into their backgrounds that go someway into explaining how they arrived at their present states.
The novel flicks between past and present. The opening - NOW - sees Tasha having escaped from Madison's house, now on fire, and her subsequent arrest and investigation. BEFORE shows how Tasha and Madison fell into each other's lives and the deadly consequences of it.
Despite Madison's character and the objectively awful choices she makes, the completion of her story arc left me feeling defensive on her behalf - to explain why would spoil it, but if you have read HOW TO KILL YOUR FAMILY by Bella Mackie, you will probably know what I mean. Tasha's story arc feels much more satisfying.
If you are a fan of dark humour, tragi-comedies, and books like HOW TO KILL YOUR FAMILY by Bella Mackie, this book is for you.