How far would you go to protect your child? That is the question before Natalie and Will Clarke in Margot Hunt’s domestic suspense novel, For Better and Worse.
At the beginning of the novel, readers witness Nat and Will’s first date, back when both of them were idealistic law students. Among other more mundane topics, their dinner conversation also turns to a unique subject: could either or both of them get away with the perfect murder? Neither of them has any way of knowing that this odd courtship discussion will one day come back to haunt them in their married life.
Years later, the couple is raising their eleven-year-old son in suburban Florida, while they both enjoy careers in their chosen legal specialties. But one day an unexpected assembly is called at the boy’s school and both Nat and Will are shocked to learn that the principle, their friend Robert Gibbons, has been accused of molesting a student. To add shock upon shock, that night their son, Charlie, tells them that Mr. Gibbons also touched him inappropriately.
Natalie knows how the criminal justice system works, so she doesn’t want to tell the authorities, fearing that Charlie will be raked over the coals without the desired outcome. So she tells Will that she wants to kill Robert Gibbons. Will laughs this off as a joke…but is it really?
Margot Hunt has created two strong, albeit incommodious, lead characters. The novel is dominated by two distinct sections: the first completely from Natalie’s point of view and the second from Will’s vantage point. This technique helps to heighten the tension in the novel, as readers are only privy to one half of the equation for the majority of the experience – and that half shifts at the mid-way point.
There is not much revolutionary in For Better and Worse, and yet, the reading experience is a satisfying one. Unlike so many suspense novels of late, the timeline here proceeds only in forward motion, making for a quicker than normal read. Margot Hunt manages to conclude the whole dilemma is a way that most readers will appreciate, even if it stretches the bounds of credibility a bit further than some might like.
In For Better and Worse, Margot Hunt successfully navigates the need to explore a difficult topic without gratuitous detail, while also not downplaying its significance in the lives of the victims. Based on that and this only being her second novel of suspense, I am confident in saying that readers will be hearing more from her in the future.