If Alfred Hitchcock guest-edited Martha Stewart Living, the result might look something like Hallie Ephron’s latest novel, Careful What You Wish For. This domestic suspense novel focuses on a professional organizer who finds herself completely tangled up in the clutter – both physical and metaphorical – of her two most recent clients.
By now, everyone has heard of Marie Kondo and her edict to dispose of anything that doesn’t spark joy, but it is Emily Harlow’s job to help her clients determine what to keep and what to throw away. Emily and her business partner run Freeze-Frame Clutter Kickers, a fledgling but expanding organizational service riding this zeitgeist societal moment. This despite the fact that in her personal life, Emily is incapable of convincing her husband to dispose of anything.
While at the site of a new client who would like the company’s help disposing of the collections left behind by her deceased husband, Emily gets a lead on another very wealthy client, Quinn Newell. Since her partner is tied up with some family obligations, Emily takes this meeting alone. How hard could it be? Quinn needs some help clearing the garage of her belongings – Care Bears, CDs, clothing etc. When the last-minute late-night consultation unexpectedly turns into a girl’s dish session – with plenty of prosecco flowing – Emily and Quinn confide to each other about how their husbands no longer “spark joy” after years of marriage.
It was all just liquor-lubricated kvetching until the next day when Quinn’s husband never returns home. Eventually the police become involved and Emily’s actions after leaving Quinn’s house that fateful evening are called into question – especially since there were some unusual encounters described in her statement. Encounters that later become inconsistencies.
Anything beyond this would constitute spoilers in the tightly-plotted tour-de-force. Rest assured that Hallie Ephron knows her brand and she hits is square in the bullseye with Careful What You Wish For. Ephron’s lead characters are often people you want to be friends with – at least until they get mixed up in murder inquiries. Readers will find it refreshing to read a novel where every seemingly insignificant moment serves a larger purpose. The clues are all here for those paying attention.
There is an ease to Ephron’s writing that makes reading this novel completely pleasurable; many readers will finish this one in a single sitting or two. There is even an extremely clever moment in the final paragraphs of Careful What You Wish For that shows how even stand-alone novels sometimes exist in the same fictional “universe” as an author’s other writings.
Every one of Hallie Ephron’s novels have been nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark award and Careful What You Wish For is likely to be recognized for that honor as well. In fact, it might just be the novel that allows that award to grace the shelves at the Ephron home.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.