Twenty years ago, Dennis Danson was arrested and imprisoned for the brutal murder of a young girl in Florida's Red River County. Now he's the subject of a true-crime documentary that's whipping up a frenzy online to uncover the truth and free a man who has been wrongly convicted.
A thousand miles away in England, Samantha is obsessed with Dennis's case. She exchanges letters with him, and is quickly won over by his apparent charm and kindness to her. Soon she has left her old life behind to marry him and campaign for his release.
But when the campaign is successful and Dennis is freed, Sam begins to discover new details that suggest he may not be quite so innocent after all...
I'd like to thank Anne Cater from Random Things Through my Letterbox for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour and Arrow Publishing for my copy of The Innocent Wife via NetGalley to review.
From the moment I read the blurb I was immediately reminded of the Netflix documentary Making A Murderer in that a convicted killer is at the centre of a documentary to prove his innocence and quash his death-row conviction. In this instance Dennis was convicted of the murder twenty years ago of a young girl, and suspected of killing other missing girls whose bodies have never been found. Having been the subject of books and a previous documentary, now he's the subject of a new film with renewed support and it's looking likely that an appeal could be possible much to the upset of the families of the missing girls.
I have to admit at first I did think it was a bit far-fetched that our other central character, teacher Sam, was so obsessed with his case via the internet and forums, so much so that she decides to write to him, confesses her love for him and then travel half-way across the world from England to visit him in prison. It's one thing to maybe correspond with a prisoner, but another to give up your job and leave your home behind without knowing what's in store for you in the future. It's a big gamble if the appeal is not a success and how well can you really get to know someone from letters alone.
The relationship between Dennis and Sam was simply bizarre, not just in the circumstances of their meeting and subsequent quick relationship, but also in the way they interacted with each other. It was clear that Sam had been hurt in the past and was desperate to love someone, and for someone to love her back, but Dennis appeared stunted emotionally, maybe because he'd been out of the dating loop all that time, so her affections seemed to be unwelcome most of the time. At many points whilst reading I really wanted to be able to say to Sam to open her eyes and see what was really going on around her for her own sanity.
As I was reading I was swinging one way, then the other, as to whether or not Dennis was innocent or maybe he was guilty after all. It's all in the details that unfolded about Dennis' childhood, his friendships and past events that are expertly woven into the storyline by the author. The more you read, the more you're questioning whether there had been a hidden agenda at play with regards to his conviction but at the same time there's always that niggling doubt...
Overall I did find The Innocent Wife to be an intense read once I put my concerns aside and just go with the flow with regards to everything that was unfolding, although I will confess that there were a few scenes that did turn my stomach with regards to the cruelty that was unfolding or the graphic descriptions I was reading.