Book review: Both of You

James Walton 13 May 2021

Adele Parks returns with a gripping, albeit slightly overlong, thriller that is destined to be a bestseller, says James Walton

Both of You by Adele Parks

One thing you can say with confidence about Both of You is that it’ll be a bestseller. After all, ever since Adele Parks expanded the dark edge of her earlier romances into full-on domestic noir, her novels haven’t just featured on the bestseller lists, they’ve topped them.

Given that it opens with a woman called Leigh tied to a radiator in an empty room, it’s clear that her new one will be pretty dark too—although not in the way you might expect. As Leigh fills us in on her pre-kidnap life, it seems for a while that we’re in for Rebecca-like tale, with Leigh worrying that she doesn’t match up to her husband Mark’s late first wife. In fact, the book proves far stranger than that.

It’s also, as we literary critics say, a bugger to review—since most of the action hinges on an unrevealable twist a third of the way through. What I can tell you is that Mark reports Leigh’s disappearance to the police, and that it's soon followed by the mysterious vanishing of another wife, Kai, who also fills us in on her marriage.

"Most of the action hinges on an unrevealable twist a third of the way through"

Between them the two women build intriguingly to that big twist. The trouble is that, once it’s happened, the novel loses momentum. This is mainly, I’d suggest, because Parks feels (probably rightly) that the twist is a bit implausible and so goes to great, often repetitive lengths to justify it, instead of simply letting us suspend our disbelief. At one point, Kai is caught in a lie, and realises that “The more I said, the less convincing the story was”: a lesson Parks herself would have done well to absorb. Fortunately, after its overlong central section, the book does then roar back to life for a properly frightening climax.

Both of You undeniably offers plenty to enjoy, not only in its more obviously thrilling moments, but in the shrewd eye it casts on families and conflicting female desires. Yet it also rather confirms my theory that when writers become as successful as Parks, their editors no longer feel able to say, “You really need to lose at least 50 pages from this.”

"It confirms my theory that when writers become successful, their editors no longer feel able to say, 'you really need to lose 50 pages from this'."

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