Editorial note: I received a copy of The Hunting Wives in exchange for a review.
The Hunting Wives by May Cobb is an absolute wild ride.
Oh man, there are just some books that make you go, what is happening?? I literally cringed at sections of The Hunting Wives multiple times. This novel is out there for sure. And pretty much all the characters are unlikable and ridiculous. But that’s also part of the fun with this book. You’re supposed to be shocked and maybe even a little outraged. We’ve seen so many times of stories where men behave badly so it was time for some women to step in that ring.
This one is a contemporary style story that slowly devolves into a thriller. We know right away that someone dies. But it takes quite a bit to get to that mystery. And I really thought it was a clever way to handle it, which made this one standout from your typical thriller.
What’s the Story About
Finally, a story that doesn’t take place in a big city! I like NYC and all but it gets a little old having every story set there. The Hunting Wives takes us to the fictional small-town Mapleton—about a two hour drive from Dallas. What it lacks in population, there’s still a good amount of people with oil money. Our protagonist Sophie O’Neill had enough of big city life in Chicago so she convinced her husband Graham to pack everything up and move the family (they have a toddler son) to Mapleton.
While Sophie has her garden and she’s attempting to start a successful blog and insta feed (it’s harder than it seems, Sophie) she eventually just gets bored and craves adult interaction. Unlike the cities where there’s always something to occupy your time, small town life moves too slow for her. She starts to get obsessed with Margot Banks, an alluring socialite that just has that spark. Eventually Sophie becomes friends with Margot and joins the elite clique secretly known as the Hunting Wives. Sophie finds herself completely drawn to Margot and swept into her mysterious world of late-night target practice and dangerous partying. As Sophie’s curiosity gives way to full-blown obsession, she slips farther away from the safety of her family and deeper into this nest of vipers.
The thriller section comes about when the body of a teenage girl is discovered in the woods where the Hunting Wives meet. Sophie finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation and her life spiraling out of control.
What is so apparent when Sophie gets swept up in this world is how boredom can led you to make mindblogging decisions. Sophie is happy with her husband and her son but yet she feels stifled and that leads her to want more. We also learn that Sophie moved around a lot as a kid and never really had much stability. And while it seems like she craves normalcy, she still has a bit of a rebellious side. So when she meets the Hunting Wives, she’s able to finally let loose.
These wives are something else. Margot is the clear leader and she can be charismatic and fun one minute and then cold and cruel the next minute. She’s the kind of person who is never held accountable for whatever reason. So she can do what she wants, anytime she wants.
Then there’s Callie, Margot’s best friend, who is quite possessive of Margot and doesn’t like Sophie who she seems to view as a threat. Tina is the friendly but also not so loyal gossip of the group. And Jill is the somewhat quiet member who is hiding a wild side.
These women like to shoot guns and then some shots of alcohol with men all in the same night. And Sophie is all in. Until a murder of a teenage girl changes everything.
I think anyone can relate to Sophie’s initial boredom, especially if you live in the suburbs. While it’s typically a safe place to be, there’s not a ton of excitement. What I thought was interesting is the gender reversal of the actions of all the women. These women shoot guns, get hammered and flirt at bars and clubs. So that sense it was actually refreshing (in a way) to see women lose control instead of being so measured (even if some scenes were big WTF moments). I keep these spoiler-free, however, that area really goes into ick territory.
And this transitions the book from a study of a bored woman and her quest to break out of her rut to a murder mystery. Sophie becomes the prime murder suspect and she has to do whatever it takes to clear her name. It shows how one bad decision can have lifelong consequences.
This story goes into bizarre-ville and some scenes were way too much for me. But I was super curious how it will end so it definitely kept my attention. I think if you’re looking for a thriller that has a bit more going on than just a cat-and-mouse game, this is a good choice for you. Check out my book club questions here.