Sandie Jones’ the First Mistake begins with Alice Davies, a successful interior designer and devoted mother and wife, experiencing a few annoying but ordinary little intrusions on her happiness. Her younger daughter is being bullied, her older daughter is stressed and sullen, her best friend seems to be a bit resentful of her good fortune, and her husband is in Japan negotiating a business deal for the company she owns. It develops that Alice hasn’t always been happy and has worked hard to leave the pit of despair that she fell into when her first husband Tom suddenly died 10 years prior. Alice is understandably afraid that the rug will be pulled out from under her again. Maybe it’s just normal stress. Maybe she’s just a little paranoid….
Well, if that were the case, we wouldn’t have a novel! We certainly wouldn’t have a Sandie Jones novel. Jones returns to the domestic suspense that made her debut The Other Woman a hit. As in The Other Woman, a female protagonist tries to separate truth from lie, friend from foe, and delusion from reality, somewhat doubting her own sanity all the while. It is said that God is in the details, and so is the Devil. Paying attention to the details in this novel will be well-rewarded at the end.
There are three acts to this novel. When the timeframe and narrative perspective change, things go from bad to worse (and, of course, far more interesting). I found myself reading much faster when the second part began. Most readers will quickly figure out that Alice can’t quite trust people around her but will be surprised to learn exactly why.
Normally, a sophomore novel isn’t quite as strong as a debut. However, I found The First Mistake to be superior to The Other Woman, in part because I found the characters a bit smarter and more sympathetic and the world a little broader. Plenty of bad decisions are made, many difficult decisions result from them, and the emotional stakes are high. The result is a great deal of fun. Stick this one in your carry-on this summer. That will not be a mistake.
NOTE: I received an advance copy from St. Martins Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.