What happens when you combine crime fiction and true crime? You get The Innocent Wife, a fictional take on a true event that fascinates us all.
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?
The Innocent Wife has a blurb you cannot help but be intrigued by – what would possess a woman to pack up her whole life, move to a new country and marry a man she’s never met, marry a man convicted of murder!? It sounds like one of those stories you read about in true life magazines, as absurd as it sounds, it really happens – and it happened to Samantha. The prologue in this novel consists of an exchange of letters between Samantha and Dennis, their love blossoming through the written word, and you just know it’s going to end badly. Samantha then lands in America and the plot thickens, she campaigns for the release of Dennis, a popular saying springs to mind – “be careful what you wish for…”
The timing of the publication of this novel is spot on, with growing broadcasts of true crime documentaries and accounts of wrongful conviction gathering worldwide attention, The Innocent Wife makes this narrative accessible whilst removing the “weight” that comes with a true story. You are able to immerse yourself in this fictional story, while you know you’re reading fiction it does carry a shadow of true crime and that gives this novel it’s chill factor (because I maintain true crime is scarier than any fiction).
When Dennis is released from prison, we follow his and Samantha’s life, and it’s uncomfortable. Dennis isn’t a likeable guy, you want to believe it’s because he’s readjusting to society after being incarcerated for so long, but he has that element of underlying menace that has you wondering if he really is guilty. The Innocent Wife offers you a slow insight into the lives of these characters but it’s more from an observation perspective rather that an insight into the psyche. The pace is slow but steady, but the content so interesting, you lose yourself in the read and hours pass you by.
I was hooked throughout the entire read, but I must confess, I felt the ending was a little off, in the sense that it deviated from the tone of the book. Lloyd has created something brilliant, giving us a fictional spin on a true crime topic that fascinates, however, the ending felt a little off the pace, like suddenly there was this need to end on a bang, when it wasn’t exciting action that made this novel a success, but the way it slowly reeled you in and had you fully in its clutches wondering if Dennis was guilty or not; I would have preferred a subtler ending, maybe. However, the epilogue was very good, redeeming if you like, and allowed me to finish this novel with a massive smile on my face – a smile that signified I had just read a very good book.
The ending may not have gone the way I wanted but I absolutely recommend this novel; it was a compelling read that brought something fresh to the crime fiction genre and I look forward to reading more from Lloyd in the future.