‘The Wrong One’ by Dervla McTiernan

When Clara Coleman is taken into custody, her teenage son, Sebastien, wastes no time before calling Simon Miller: an estranged family friend and detective in their old hometown of Hartford, Connecticut. Clara’s been arrested for the murder of Rachel Stapleton, a wealthy housewife and prominent figure in Lavender Valley, their well-to-do New Jersey suburb. But she swears she did not commit the crime. 

Simon knows that Clara is not capable of murder and will do anything he can to prove her innocence—he’s felt indebted to the Coleman family since her husband, Will, Simon’s best friend, passed away years before. He arrives in Lavender Valley and hits the ground running on the case. With time, details surrounding the crime as well as the Colemans’ family history are revealed, unravelling the complex web of cause and effect that will finally bring the truth to light. 

Audible Originals, audiobooks commissioned, produced and owned by Audible is one of the win/win ideas in the publishing industry. The subscriber gets additional, exclusive, premium content, usually free (at least initially) and Audible gets to control the quality and cost of the content while strengthening the loyalty of subscribers to the Audible platform.

Of course, the win/win only happens if the Audible Originals are worth listening to. I think that ‘The Wrong One’ is a good example of what an Audible Original should be: it’s written by an author I know and whose books I would buy; it’s novella length so it’s tempting to give it a go and will appeal to subscribers who prefer podcasts over novels and it’s written to be listened to and to be enhanced by the use of two narrators.

The best thing about ‘The Wrong One’ though is that it’s a literary IED waiting to explode when you least expect it. Because this novel is written by Dervla McTiernan, I assumed that ‘The Wrong One’ would be a police procedural with the pace of a thriller. This assumption was reinforced when I read the publisher’s summary and saw that I was going to have a Police Detective trying to prove that his dead friend’s wife is innocent of the murder she’s been accused of.

The thing about assumptions is that they’re what cons and magic tricks are made of. They suck you in and keep you distracted while the real game is played.

I don’t put spoilers in my reviews so I won’t tell you what the real game was except to say it was a good one and very well played.

Of course, looking back, I knew something was off almost from the beginning. That didn’t help me, firstly because I didn’t know exactly what was off and secondly Dervla McTiernan structured the storytelling to seed doubt about both of the narrators so I couldn’t decide if just one of them was off, or which one it was or if both of them were hiding something unpleasant. I understood then that the title was a taunt to to the unwary reader because my problem was that I didn’t know which one was The Wrong One.Then, just when I thought I’d figured out who not to trust, I realised that I hadn’t been paying attention to the signals that I’d been getting that there was a supernatural element to the plot.

So I gave up trying to see how the magic trick worked and just Dervla McTiernan and the two narrators, Neil Hellegers and Michael Crouch, dazzle me.

I enjoyed the four hours I spent on ‘The Wrong One’. It kept me entertained, helped me to relax and made me take a closer look at Dervla McTiernan’s standalone novels. I’m thinking that her latest novel ‘The Murder Rule’ would be an excellent fit for Halloween Bingo. See what I mean about a win/win?

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