The Starter Wife

The Starter Wife

by Nina Laurin

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From the bestselling author of Girl Last Seen comes "a spine-tingler" (Booklist) of a psychological suspense, perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell and Jessica Knoll.
Local police have announced that they're closing the investigation of the suspected drowning of 37-year-old painter Colleen Westcott. She disappeared on April 11, 2010, and her car was found parked near the waterfront in Cleveland two days later, but her body has never been found. The chief of police has stated that no concrete evidence of foul play has been discovered in the probe.
I close the online search window, annoyed. These articles never have enough detail. They think my husband's first wife disappeared or they think she is dead. There's a big difference.

My phone rings, jarring me away from my thoughts, and when I pick it up, it's an unknown number. The only answer to my slightly breathless hello is empty static.

When the voice does finally come, it's female, low, muffled somehow. "Where is it, Claire? What did you do with it? Tell me where it is."

A woman. A real flesh-and-blood woman on the other end of the phone. She's not just in my head.

A wave of panic spreads under my skin like ice water. It's Colleen.

"Laurin knows how to ratchet up the suspense." --Publishers Weekly

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781538715734
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication date: 06/11/2019
Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 11,252
File size: 551 KB

About the Author

Nina Laurin studied Creative Writing at Concordia University, in Montreal where she currently lives. She has published speculative short stories in various e-zines and anthologies over the years and her narrative nonfiction piece, "On Happiness" is soon to be published in the local literary journal Cosmonauts Avenue. She blogs about books and writing on her own site,

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The Starter Wife 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
lsmoore_43 12 hours ago
Just when I think I have this story figured out it throws another wrench in the mix. A story of a love so strong that nothing or no one will stand in its way. A woman so bent on having her perfect life, perfect husband that she will do anything to achieve it. Nothing is going to stop Claire from what she truly believes is hers. Hers to do with as she sees fit. Hers to attain at any and all cost. Claire fell so in love with Byron Westcott that she lost all reasoning. All common sense. She was young and dumb for sure. She completely redid her life for him. She went from being a dowdy teen to being a ver good looking young woman with a college education on top of it. Byron Westcott loved only Colleen. Colleen was his world. His entire existence. His reason for being. He would have done anything for her. They had a love that was meant to last a lifetime. But it was not to be. Colleen went missing and that almost destroyed Byron. No body was ever found and it was presumed she committed suicide. Byron will always mourn Colleen even when he finally moves on to a life with Claire. But will things be good between them. Will he be faithful to her? Will she be enough to help him get over his loss? This book is one that has so many twists and turns you may get lost. You may think things are heading in one direction and find out you was so far off base that you are totally shocked. I sure was. I thought I had things figured out. I really did. I was so wrong. This book is full of some very shocking twists and turns but it will keep you wanting more. You will want to know what happens next. You will want to know what exactly happened to who and why. Each time you think you have it something else will happen. To the very end you will wonder... Who is Claire. What happened to Colleen. Who is Byron and what has he done. Who is who and what is happening. I really enjoyed reading this book. It sure kept me on the edge of my seat for almost two days. It’s a great psychological thriller. It’s one I highly recommend to anyone that loves a book with many twists and turns. The characters are likable in a love/hate kind of way. Each one playing the part beautifully. This author was new to me and I definitely look forward to reading more of her books. This is a page turner for sure. Thank you to #NetGalley, #Grand Central Publishing for the ARC of this book. This is my complete and honest review. A big 5 stars. I loved it.
JHSEsq 8 days ago
Nina Laurin employs plot twists, surprising developments, & misdirection to maximum effect to compel the story as readers try to discern the difference between reality and her unreliable lead character's imagination. Colleen Westcott's disappearance has never been fully solved. Was it murder? Suicide? Or is she still alive, but missing? Claire Westcott is married to Colleen's husband, Byron, a professor of literature at the same small college where Colleen also taught. Bryon was a person of interest in Colleen's death, but no charges were ever brought against him. Claire & Byron began dating five years ago after they met at an alumni event. Claire had been one of his students. They married after a whirlwind courtship, & Claire is supposed to be writing a book while Byron is teaching, but the rejections from publishers continue to arrive. Through a first-person narrative, Claire describes her life with Byron and what it's like to live in the shadow of his presumably dead first wife. Her paintings hang on virtually every wall of the house she shares with Byron -- the one in which he resided with Colleen. The same furniture fills the home, including their bedroom. Claire relates, "Colleen may have died but she never left." Their attempts to have a child have not been successful, Claire is drinking far too much, and it appears that Byron has lost interest in and patience with her. He is spending more and more time away from home, and when he's there, he's distant. Claire suspects that he is having an affair with one of his students. Against that backdrop, in addition to receiving a telephone call that Claire is convinced is from Colleen, she receives an email that simply disappears from her in-box. Desperate to hold onto Byron and their marriage, Claire becomes determined to solve the mystery of Colleen's disappearance. She also follows the young coed with whom she thinks Byron has been unfaithful, and confides in one of his colleagues. But when she proposes and tries to lure him into an elaborate scheme to obtain hormone treatments in an unhinged attempt to conceive a child, the colleague is understandably alarmed and bolts. A narrative from an unidentified third party, addressing Byron, appears to be the voice of someone stalking Claire. Who is she? Laurin keeps readers off-balance as she takes them on an uncomfortable journey into Claire's thoughts. Claire struggles with self-doubt related to body image and her failure to succeed as a writer, in addition to the stress of living with a husband who seems to have never gotten past his first wife's disappearance. Is Claire merely a stand-in wife to Byron? Or does he really love her, but is emotionally unable to fully move forward with his life after the trauma of losing his first wife? Since Byron is obviously damaged and unable to fully commit himself to their marriage, why is Claire so obsessed with him and hellbent on staying in the relationship? Whether Claire is a victim or a very disturbed villain is unclear until her estranged sister arrives, and the truth about Claire's past is gradually revealed. From that juncture, the book's pace accelerates and the story races to an explosive conclusion. Laurin distinguishes herself in a crowded field of psychological thriller authors. None of her characters are particularly likable; each is fascinating & The Starter Wife is entertaining. Thanks to NetGalley for an Advance Reader's Copy of the book.
Ejaygirl 17 days ago
Claire Wescott is married to Byron, a professor at a liberal arts college in Ohio. She’s his second wife and is starting to question if his change in behavior towards her means it a sign that he’s seeing someone else. Claire thinks a baby will be the answer though she’s got fertility issues. As she pursues that direction, she’s also trying to figure out if there’s a “who” responsible for his distraction. From the start, I knew I was dealing with an unreliable narrator because Claire has some serious issues! And, the prologue introduces someone, anonymous, who’s always in the background and I was never quite sure where to place her...past or present, good or evil, real or imagined. Then there’s Colleen, Byron’s first wife, who has a large presence in the story. She disappeared years ago, presumed dead by suicide. The narrative is Claire’s and it’s an uncomfortable place to be in as she grapples with self doubt, body image issues and her writing failures. I didn’t like her very much though I had empathy for her situation. I went back and forth about Byron because I only had Claire’s point of view. Because of my struggles with Claire, I had mixed feelings about this story. I had a hard time resuming reading after breaks because I didn’t want to be back in her head. But, there came a point where things shifted and it became a seriously intriguing puzzle I had to solve. I got there but was still surprised by one final twist. I’m glad I hung in there because being off balance is part of the story’s allure. If you don’t get hung up on how you feel about the narrator, you’ll appreciate the journey and the payoff. I’m still thinking about that ending. (Thanks to NetGalley for my complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.)
ariannamclaughlin 18 days ago
What a fun read! It's hard to standout these days with the number of domestic/psychological thrillers in the market, but Nina Laurin has done a great job keeping the twists and turns coming in The Starter Wife. Claire is the ultimate unreliable narrator- or is she being gas-lighted by her older husband Byron, whose first wife Colleen died under unusual circumstances? Is Claire the victim or villain? This is fast-paced read that will keep you guessing to the last page. Thank you to @Netgalley and Grand Central Publishing for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Anonymous 18 days ago
well...I started reading this expecting a typical thriller where the main characters are not quite everyday normal. That is not what I got! The plot has been written many times, but Nina Laurin managed to give it a tweak and a twist that was anything except expected. I read thrillers for that twist that keeps me guessing until the end. That's what I got in The Starter Wife. Claire is the main character who has married a man many years her senior. She is his second wife. His "starter wife" disappeared and was declared a suicide. Sound familiar? But, taking a leap of faith here....Claire is suddenly not as happy or certain in her new life as she expected to be. Still sound familiar? From this point, the story does a couple of twists that will leave you wondering if you missed a clue earlier in the book. The ending is not what I expected and yet it was definitely thrilling. This is a quick read that I finished in a couple of afternoons. Take a this book.
LuvSnoop42 4 months ago
This was dark, sick and twisted! Just the way I like 'em! I enjoyed trying to figure out Claire and found her to be very real. She could be insecure and irritating, but so can most people. This book is kind of slow and depressing at the start, but I was already forewarned from other readers, so I stuck with it and it picked up, then took off fairly quickly. Just be warned, several dark topics are covered. The ending was not what I wanted, but it was as it should be.
Carolefort 4 months ago
The Starter Wife by Nina Laurin is my favorite type of mystery: a thriller that you want to re-read so you can pick up on some of the clues you might have missed the first time. Byron Westcott is a college professor whose wife Colleen disappeared years ago. The police suspect she committed suicide but have never recovered her body. Several years later, Byron marries Claire, a budding novelist, who idolizes her husband. Cracks begin to appear in this happy marriage and where this is going you will never guess. The tension builds until the very end. I highly recommend The Starter Wife to all mystery readers who like to be surprised. Thank you to Grand Central Publishing and NetGalley for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Katie__B 4 months ago
Well that was a crazy and wild ride! It was entertaining for sure but there were a few problems I had with it while reading. It was still enjoyable though and would make a darn good summer beach read. Claire is married to Byron, a college professor. Byron's first wife aka the starter wife, Colleen, committed suicide while they were married, and Claire has always felt like she was in Colleen's shadow. It is probably hard to shake that feeling when they live in Colleen's nice home, spend money from her estate, and are surrounded with her artwork. Claire's relationship with her husband appears to be on the rocks as Byron has been acting cold and distant towards her lately. Claire might have to do some investigating to find out why Byron is acting this way. This was definitely a page turner and ended up being a fairly quick read. At times I felt frustrated and confused by the motivations of certain characters. However, most of the questions I had about characters' behaviors were answered by the time I finished the book. This is one of the rare times I will say I think I might enjoy this book better on a reread. It's also the type of book I am looking forward to other people reading as I am dying to know what others have to say about it. Lots of interesting things to discuss! Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance digital copy in exchange for an honest review!
Mimiphilly 4 months ago
This was a complimentary copy from netgalley - thank you Loved this A slow start but then was absolutely gripped - so many twists - it kept me on the edge of my seat right to the end
mytwocents 5 months ago
Well that was fun! Other than what's already in the blurb, there's very little I can say about the plot--there's a huge, game-changing twist in this one, so I don't want to spoil anything. I stayed up far too late to finish reading because I was determined to see how this unfolded. Laurin knows how to keep us turning pages! There was one not-so-teeny thing I had to overlook in order to keep enjoying this story--Google. Byron, the former husband of the "starter wife," becomes involved with a series of women after his wife's disappearance in 2010. Apparently, we're to believe that *not a single one* of these women Googled him before they dated him. Move things back ten years, and yeah, that might be plausible. But in the 2010s? Hahaha, sorry, probably not. As soon as I pretended the plot was unfolding in a different time period, this was a lot of fun! This author was new to me, so I'll be sure to look for more of her work in the future. I'll dock a half a star for the Google funny business and give this 4.5 stars. Thanks to NetGalley and Grand Central Publishing for providing me with a DRC of this novel.
Loy3 5 months ago
This book started out slow and took a while to get into it. There were a lot of twists and turns. I did not care for any of the characters which made the book just okay. The ending was not what I expected following the storyline. It could be the story was not for me. It was not the writing which was fresh that I did not really care for. I think is was story itself. Someone who loves this type of book will enjoy it. Thank you Net Galley for allowing me to read this book
AnitaG 5 months ago
Claire appears to be the doting second wife of Byron Westcott, a professor of English twenty years older than her. She is enamored of his work, his passion for her and everything about him. His first wife disappeared, it assumed she took her life and drowned. She had been a renowned artist, and her money is what keeps Byron and Claire in a lifestyle they couldn’t afford. That money is what makes it possible for twenty seven year old Claire to not work, and to keep working on a novel she dreams of finishing. This is what the first few chapters tell us, but oh an unreliable narrator is at work, and we also see a dark figure, is someone following Claire? Is someone stalking her, mocking her and after her darling Byron? Is Claire imagining that Byron less affectionate and leaving her alone more and more? Is there another person plotting against Claire? The Starter Wife will keep you guessing at each chapter and wondering who is the evil person in this tale. Nina Laurin had me second guessing every single person. As Claire reaches out to colleagues and past loves of Byron, I wondered, what would she find, what was really going on with he and Colleen, was he the doting husband everyone said, or was there something darker at play? I had read Laurin’s fist book Girl Last Seen, and I have to say this book is even better. The characters are more developed. I love a story I can’t quite figure out, it keeps me turning pages and waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop. Grab this one up, I read it very quickly and won’t soon forget Claire.
Alfoster 6 months ago
This is my favorite genre as I love a good flawed character/unreliable narrator, secrets, lies and duplicitous acts (not sure what that says about me but oh well--it's fiction)! Claire is obsessed with her professor husband, Byron and his first wife, Colleen whose drowning was ruled a suicide but still remains suspicious. As she attempts to unravel the past, she suspects there are nefarious actions directed against her as friends and family members seem to conspire against her. To whom can she confide her thoughts? Is she crazy or is her husband really the philandering man she believes? Twisty and fun, this is a roller-coaster ride of the most bizarre kind! Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!
SheTreadsSoftly 6 months ago
The Starter Wife by Nina Laurin is a highly recommended psychological thriller. Claire is the younger second wife of Byron Westcott, a professor of literature at Ohio’s Mansfield College. They have been married for two years and Claire is happy, but it seems like Byron is becoming more distant. Byron's first wife, painter Colleen May, also a Mansfield professor, committed suicide five years before, but her body was never found. Now Claire is beginning to wonder what really happened to Colleen, especially when she receives a phone call from a woman she is sure is Colleen. Claire is the narrator of this riveting, dark, tension-filled psychological thriller, but there is a second narrative voice that belongs to an unnamed woman who may be stalking Claire and out to destroy her. The unnamed stalker is obsessed with Byron and wants Claire out of the way. Could it be Colleen? Claire begins to investigate her death and Byron's past, while at the same time suffering from unexplained illnesses. Did Byron kill Colleen and is he now out to eliminate Claire? While you won't necessarily like Claire, the suspense escalates with the second narrator who seems to be out to get Claire. Byron may also be a part of the scheme. It is a trend now to have unlikable female narrators and, while this follows along that well-traveled path, the ending was a totally surprising twist. The Starter Wife is a novel that you have to wait until the final third of the book for some shocking and surprising incidents. It is not until the end that I found myself admiring the skillful writing, the intricate plot, and the excellent character development. I thought I knew what was going on and where the story was headed, which is exactly the way I imagine Laurin planned out her novel. Well played Nina Laurin; I was totally surprised and caught unaware. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Grand Central Publishing.
Texas109 6 months ago
The Starter Wife is a good read for someone who enjoys psychological thrillers. Told from two points of view this reader had a difficult time determining fact from fiction until the end, just as the author intended. The writing is good and the plot moves along nicely...even as the characters’ personalities begin to change or perhaps, deteriorate. I found this basically to be a story about deception, but who was the deceiver? I voluntarily reviewed an advance copy of this book.
Anonymous 6 months ago
Claire Westcott and her husband, Byron, live in Ohio. Byron is a professor of literature at Mansfield Liberal Arts College. There is nearly 20 years difference in their ages. Claire wants to be an author, but as yet she has had no interest in her book from any literary agents. Claire is Byron’s second wife. His first wife, Colleen, a talented artist, died it is believed by suicide, but her body has never been found. Byron and Claire have been living quite well on the money left by Colleen. But her paintings cover all the walls and it’s almost like a shrine to her. At the time Colleen went missing, Byron was suspected of having killed her but nothing ever came of that. Claire wants very much to have a baby but has had no luck in getting pregnant. The doctor has told her that her only chance of having a child is with a donor egg, but Claire refuses to go that route, convincing herself that she will get pregnant anyway. Claire is so much in love with Byron but she can’t help but wonder if he is having an affair. Using a fake name, she gets on social media and tries to find out things from some of his students. Soon, she starts getting emails from people she doesn’t know. In addition, she has blackouts from drinking that anger Byron. Claire begins to wonder if maybe Colleen isn’t dead and is trying to terrorize her. This book was a slow start, in addition to being depressing and a bit boring. However, I had already read that a slow start is what other readers had found so I decided to stay the course and finish it. I’m certainly glad I did. Wow! Just when you think you may have a person figured out - bam - they totally fool you! If you can hang in there for the slow start, I’m thinking you will enjoy this book as well. Copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Anonymous 6 months ago
Well, that was a sick, twisted,and terrific rollercoaster of a book. Obsession and delusion make this a dark, dark gripping story that stays in your stomach when you turn the last page.
Steve Aberle 6 months ago
The Starter Wife is like eating an entire bag of candy. Addicting, enjoyable, and guilt-inducing. In the age of indistinguishable domestic thrillers, this stands out. The story has all the ingredients necessary to produce a rollicking good time. Lies, obsession, homicide, and that is just a sample. The plot is replete with unpredictability and the characters multilayered. I was bummed out when I finished this fascinating and entertaining domestic thriller. Here is hoping for more by this talented writer.
TexasRebel17 6 months ago
Holy Moly! This was a book that had myself glued to it even when I so needed to go to bed but I had to stay up for that finale that put this book on my re-read stack! Young Claire to married to the older college professor Byron who's first wife Colleen, supposedly suicided herself. It's when the 2nd person shows in the book that you start thinking that Colleen might not be dead after all. I so don't want to spoil anything after that but let's just say that after a trip to a cabin is when the book really starts heating up to the point of total shock of the truth! All I can say about this book is that I have found myself a new thriller Author that I know can bring the thrill while leaving you wanting more! Any book that will make me stay up even while I'm fighting my eyes for sleep, is a book that totally deserves all the recognition that it deserves! Thank You to Nina Laurin for this one book that turned me into a fan of yours!! I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book from the Publisher! All thoughts and opinions are my own!
RobinLovesReading 6 months ago
My Rating 3.5 Stars For a moment, while reading The Starter Wife, I was reminded of Rebecca by Daphne DeMaurier. That feeling did not last too long in the book. Was Claire Westcott, married two years to a man nearly twice her age, Byron, living in the shadow of his first wife, Colleen? Colleen, a successful painter, apparently committed suicide almost twenty years ago. Currently, the closing of the case of the suicide begins raising questions to Claire. While the police have finally vindicated Byron, rumors have not. Claire begins believing the rumors. Did Byron kill Colleen after all? Is Claire safe? This entire story is relayed in two narrations, both in first-person. Quite naturally, we have Claire, with her everyday life and actions. Then we have someone unnamed, a person obsessed and who is stalking Byron. She is determined to save Byron. In dialog, she is quite clear that Byron's wife is not worthy of him. She will do anything she can to stop any harm from coming to Byron. Yes, she will go to any means necessary. My connection to the classic that I alluded to at the beginning of this review? Claire is beset with jealousy and unease with any feelings Byron might have had towards Colleen, who was the starter wife. Claire is living in Colleen's house and enjoys the benefits from the the wealth that Colleen amassed due to her paintings, as well as her years as a college professor. Byron is also a professor, and seems oblivious to any feelings of uncertainty that Claire has. With two unreliable narrators, and with a man like Byron, it was rather hard to feel drawn into the characters and their stories. However, I do think the story was done quite well, especially when a massive twist occurred in the story. I was absolutely riveted from that point on and my jaw simply dropped at the shocking conclusion. I am glad to have read this book by Nina Laurin, even with the absolute crazy characters, and I definitely look forward to reading her books again in the future. Many thanks to Grand Central Publishing and to NetGalley for this ARC to review in exchange for my honest opinion.
Shelley-S-Reviewer 6 months ago
I was totally enthralled by the book from the very beginning. The writing made the characters come to life easily and with power. The twist at the end was something I didn’t expect. I liked how the book went through different of my favourite types of thrillers. The story was very engrossing. This book is packed with so many layers, each one carefully developed and shown to the reader in perfect timing. It is so much more than just the story of a husband and wife, each character matters and is intertwined brilliantly. For me, this turned out to be a quick read because I tore through it eager to know. It was written with such clever simplicity, which I really appreciated. No need for crowded characters or dramatic laborious environments. I liked the style, the pace and the way the author would feed you tidbits at a time; crumbling you along for more. This is the third book, of hopefully many more, I have read from Nina Laurin. She always manages to hold my interest from the first page till the end.
Plum_Report 6 months ago
First I would like to thank Nina for sending me an ARC copy of The Starter Wife in exchange for an honest review. A psychological thriller for sure! Claire, Byron's second wife, is dealing with some internal conflict regarding Byron and his attachment to his deceased wife. Claire begins to questions Byron's faith in their marriage and fears their marriage may be in trouble. Claire goes to certain lengths to try and make Byron happy all while looking deeper into Byron's late wife's death. I'm not sure if the WOW moment towards the end was slightly predictable or not, but it was definitely a WOW moment for me. The story was a well written story that creatively included modern day communications via emails and texts within the narration. Read my full review of The Starter Wife by Nina Laurin at the PlumReport book blog:)
KWeldon 6 months ago
Byron and his wife Claire have been married for 2 years. Byron is 47 and Claire is 27. Byron's first wife, Colleen, disappeared. The police believe it was a suicide after her car is found near a lake and a suicide note is found. Strangely women around Byron seem to disappear. There has been a lot of gossip at the college where Byron is a professor. When Byron starts acting differently toward Claire she becomes concerned and starts investigating his past. Thank you Netgalley and Grand Central Publishing for the opportunity to read and review this book. General Fiction (Adult) Expected Release Date: July 9, 2019
mamalovestoread22 6 months ago
With it's puzzling and absorbing story line, The Starter Wife is certain to have readers captivated from beginning to end! The moment I cracked the cover on this one I felt like I was being taken for a ride, nothing was as it seemed, and every time I thought I had a grasp on what was happening, the words would creep up on me and leave me baffled all over again. This domestic thriller is downright unsettling, I found it hard to trust the characters, and anything they had to say... they all had me doubting myself at every turn! Once again Ms. Laurin has not only left me impressed with her words, but also taken me on a thrilling literary ride that I won't forget anytime soon! I highly recommend you add this one to you summer reading list, it's a mind-twisting little page-turner guaranteed to have you on edge the whole way through! I requested an advanced copy of this title from the publisher, and I am voluntarily leaving my honest opinion.
Anonymous 6 months ago
It took me a while to get into this book, but once I did, it was a good read, if slightly disturbing. Claire is married to Byron, but the ghost of his wife, Colleen is a spectre that won't go away and is putting strain not only on their marriage but on Claire's ability to make good choices. None of the characters in this book were particularly likeable, it wasn't the type of book where you were rooting for someone, it was more about finding out what really happened to Colleen and how far Claire will go.... Thanks for to Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book, this is my honest opinion.