I tend to love British mysteries, but sometimes I find them slow. This book, unfortunately, follows the latter form. Although intelligently written, the first-person narrator really doesn't come to life until the last twenty pages of the book, after she's left her shady husband and opened a small practice of her own.
Alex is a character I want to like, but somehow she lacks depth.
It's as if Francis uses her as a vehicle without getting to the core of her humanity. I didn't hate Alex, but I had trouble relating. In the meltdown of her marriage, there is nothing that has us rooting for her one way or the other, because we've never seen glimpses of how it once was. As a reader, I was thinking "Just dump the guy already."
A bigger problem with the book was the interest of the two plots. The main plotline of the vanished wife feels repetitive. Less than halfway into the book, I knew the majority of the answer: that Charlie was involved. (I didn't know he wasn't Will's son, though, that was a surprise). The paragraphs seem to repeat themselves, as do the conversations. But the more interesting plot about the drug dealer (and those plots don't usually interest me) and the policeman who was permanently injured, and the bought jurist, suddenly disappears. It's as if that plot is just an excuse to show Alex's messed-up marriage with Paul. It -- vanishes.
Francis also overuses the italics for emphasis, making Will seem like a whiny jerk. Alex's fondness for him is hard to understand, or for his mother, Maggie, who is a pain in the ass and rude. This really calls into question Alex's judgment, which I guess, on second thought, is a fair enough character trait. The problem seems to be that readers are supposed to root for her and Will, and Francis gives us no proof of their depth or humanity. The characters are devices to drive a not-very-interesting plot.