This heart-wrenching psychological thriller from British author Hall (Our Kind of Cruelty) charts the fraught lives of three best friends from university. Nancy Hennessy has stayed ostensibly close to Eleanor Meakins and Mary Smithson in the nearly three decades since they were at Oxford together. When Nancy is murdered after meeting with her secret lover, Eleanor’s affair with Nancy’s husband becomes so engrossing and guilt-wracked that it keeps Eleanor from helping Mary with her husband’s illness. Three successive narratives center on the interior life of each woman: Eleanor immediately after the murder, Nancy in the time leading up to her death, and Mary further along in the murder’s aftermath. Hall shows each woman being emotionally drawn to doing something she knows is awful, revolting against feeling trapped, and feeling separated from her support system by guilt, evoking both empathy and outrage in the reader. The suspense alone is crafted skillfully enough to hold interest, but the dark portrait of the stifling nature of contemporary womanhood makes this story really stick. Agent: Lizzy Kremer, David Higham (U.K.). (June)
**Editors' Choice at The New York Times Book Review**
A Best Book of the Summer at Stylist
A Most Anticipated Book of 2020 at The Millions
A Most Anticipated Book of Summer at CrimeReads
"Here [Araminta Hall] turns her close attention to womenhow complicated their lives are; the Faustian bargains they make when they get married and raise children, or not; the complicated nature of their friendships; how hard they are on each other and themselves . . . The book creeps on you slowly, like a fog, until you find yourself enveloped in this tangled skein of relationships, eager to see how all this is going to play out, who is going to betray whom and in what way . . . Imperfect Women is not a conventional detective story, but an investigation into character and motivation."
Sarah Lyall, The New York Times Book Review
"You won't be able to put it down. Trust me."
Elisabeth Moss, on Instagram
"A gripping thriller that has me racing through the pages."
Laura Jane Williams, Good Housekeeping
"Promises to please those who enjoy psychological thrillers and all those who love Elena Ferrante but wish her series was just a bit (okay, a lot) more twisted . . . Hall’s suspenseful and astute thriller should keep us guessing till the very last reveal."
Molly Odintz, Lit Hub
“A psychological thriller in the truest sense of the word: a thoughtful examination of the psyche of three credible women with baggage and flaws. So much will resonate: not least Hall’s exploration of gender politics and motherhood. At points I was folding pages repeatedly. Deeply unsettling.”
Sarah Vaughan, author of Anatomy of a Scandal
"Imperfect Women mines that grey area where friends’ lives feed our own insecurities to dazzling effect."
Francesca Brown, Stylist
“Imperfect Women is a stunning, dark novel about who women want to be and the reality of who they are. Beautifully written, thought-provoking, and should not be missed.”
Samantha Downing, author of His Lovely Wife
"Readers who enjoy a challenge will appreciate how deftly Hall paints nearly every character as a viable suspect . . . Imperfect Women is an engrossing deep dive into the individual and shared history of a long-term friendship, an acknowledgement of the slow poison of being confined by gender roles, and an exploration of what can happen when reasonable expectations begin to seem sadly unattainable."
Linda M. Castellitto, BookPage
"[A] heart-wrenching psychological thriller . . . Hall shows each woman being emotionally drawn to doing something she knows is awful, revolting against feeling trapped, and feeling separated from her support system by guilt, evoking both empathy and outrage in the reader. The suspense alone is crafted skillfully enough to hold interest, but the dark portrait of the stifling nature of contemporary womanhood makes this story really stick."
“A brilliant exploration of the secrets and hidden lives women create for themselves as they try to navigate their way through life. A fabulous novel of modern love, life and people, with an excellent twist.”
Dorothy Koomson, author of Tell Me Your Secret
"At times surprising and other times disturbing, Imperfect Women is a suspenseful mystery with depth, a frightful look at domesticity gone awry, intricately written with layers of female frailty and ferocity that are impossible to turn away from."
Paula Priamos, New York Journal of Books
"Rare and very refreshing . . . Middle-aged women are represented in all their wise, sensual, flawed complexity. I enjoyed it so much."
Marian Keyes, author of Grown Ups
"Out come secrets galore, plus a nuanced depiction of complex female friendships. For fans of Patricia Highsmith and Paula Hawkins.”
"Beautifully written and expertly structureda masterclass in psychological thriller writing"
Simon Lelic, author of The New Neighbors
"[This] absorbing psychological thriller is much more than a classic whodunit. Readers who think they finally know who the killer is will be confounded by the twists and turns the plot takes . . . The story goes deep into guilt, love, and the ties that bind us. Recommended for fans of Paula Hawkins."
Kristen Calvert, Library Journal
"Although there’s a murder at the heart of Imperfect Women, it’s not a conventional detective story. Its real mysteries concern love, friendship, obligation, and the disappointments that come with the passage of time.”
The New York Times, "12 New Books We Recommend This Week"
"It's been clear from the start that Araminta Hall has a talent for telling unpalatable truths and Imperfect Women is no exception. She expertly peels the layers from the everyday lies we tell each other, and ourselves."
Sarah Hilary, author of Come and Find Me
"A perfect slow-burning thriller."
Nikki Smith, author of All in Her Head
"The investigation into Nancy’s murder is the electric cord charging [Araminta Hall’s] absorbing novel . . . Hall’s astute novel unravels a gripping mystery and explores the complicated shifts of personal and familial relationships and the conflicts between societal expectations and inner desires."
Leah Strauss, Booklist
"A psychological page-turner . . . that deftly explores the dark and confronting dualities of womanhood."
Laura Jane Williams, author of Our Stop
"Pitch-perfect, meticulously observed, and utterly absorbing."
Philippa East, author of Little White Lies
"An emotionally-drenched novel that focuses on guilt and betrayal . . . Araminta Hall has done an excellent job with Imperfect Women. Her style is eminently readable, her characters believable."
Mark Rose, bookgasm
"A dark take on friendship and festering secrets."
Caroline Hulse, author of The Adults
Julie Cohen, author of Dear Thing
"Immersive, intelligent and gripping."
S. E. Lynes, author of The Women
"A slow-burning, tense build to a furious conclusion. It's great."
Harriet Tyce, author of Blood Orange
" Hall’s fifth novel takes a refreshing approach to the multiple-narrator thriller . . . it culminates in a satisfying solution to the crime . . . Good bone structure."
"A brilliantly unsettling exploration of secrets and lies."
Jo Spain, author of With Our Blessing
"A deeply satisfying psychological thriller . . . insightful and sometimes disquieting."
Cara Hunter, author of In the Dark
"Toxic relationships, crushed hopes, and rebuilding yourself from rock bottom. Fabulous."
Liv Matthews, author of The Prank
"Dark, visceral, proper psychological thriller with a powerful feminist agenda."
Laura Wilkinson, author of Skin Deep
"A painfully honest, haunting portrait of friendship, betrayal, marriage and disappointment."
It comes as a terrible shock when Nancy Hennessy is murdered. She had a great life: she was wealthy, beautiful; and well loved by her husband and family and her two best friends, Mary and Eleanor. But immediately following her death, secrets begin to come out, including Nancy's long-term affair with a lover whose identity she took to her grave. The investigation into Nancy's death seems to be going nowhere, yet it uncovers details about Nancy that make her closest friends realize just how little they knew her. As they deal with their grief and try to track down the killer, they begin to doubt their relationships with Nancy as well as with each other. Hall's (Our Kind of Cruelty) absorbing psychological thriller is much more than a classic whodunit. Readers who think they finally know who the killer is will be confounded by the twists and turns the plot takes. VERDICT Told from the viewpoints of Nancy and her two friends, the story goes deep into guilt, love, and the ties that bind us. Recommended for fans of Paula Hawkins. [See Prepub Alert, 11/25/19.]—Kristen Calvert, Dallas P.L., TX
Three British women have been best friends since their days at Oxford…and then there were two.
Nancy is the beautiful, rich blonde who is cheating on her husband; dumpy Eleanor is married to her career of humanitarian work overseas; Mary is the harried mother of three whose professor husband can barely manage to stop by the house between affairs. As the novel opens, Nancy has turned up dead after a rendezvous with her mystery lover, of whom no one knows a thing. Or just one small, possibly false, thing—she told Eleanor his first name was David. Hall’s fifth novel takes a refreshing approach to the multiple-narrator thriller, eschewing at least two tired gambits: back-and-forth chapters between two points of view and tricking the reader by having a narrator withhold information. So thank you for that, Ms. Hall. The first third of the book, in which the crime is discovered and investigated, belongs to Eleanor, whose grief drives her to some uncharacteristic—and not very nice—behavior. The second part moves back in time and gives us Nancy’s view of things prior to her demise. “I love what every man has always loved about you,” says her lover. “Your perfection.” Struggling most of her life with depression, Nancy certainly doesn’t feel perfect. What’s more, she wants out of this affair. The final section is Mary’s, and it culminates in a satisfying solution to the crime plus an improbably happy ending, given that we’re three corpses in. The murder-mystery aspect of the book is handled well, but the psychological novel is a little on the slow side, with much ruminating on the part of each character, and the Betty Friedan–era feminist themes—career vs. family, the awfulness of housework, the constriction of traditional gender roles—feel oddly dated.
Good bone structure.