Every character in The Lover is well-written, from the local people that Rene and Lucy come across in a shelter, to Jim's victims, to an air raid warden who has a special friendship with Rene. The story is a true page-turner and kept me involved and riveted, almost until the very end, when it went off the rails.
As much as I enjoyed reading The Lover, at least before the last few pages, I have to admit that I ultimately felt let down by the author. Without totally giving away the ending, I think Wilson underestimated and undervalued her female characters in favor of going for a "shock" ending.
Throughout the novel Rene and Lucy come up against various obstacles. They have an inevitable meeting, but when the suspense portion of the novel takes hold — will they catch the Ripper or not? — and they join forces, the ending felt tacked-on, sped-through, and disappointing, to say the least.
The Lover does highlight how during wartime we may want our young men to be ruthless killers — in the air. It also examines how their constant fear of death and their job description — to kill or be killed — affects them. So many of Jim's fellow airmen are dealing with shell-shock or battle fatigue. At times it is hard to sort out the differences between what makes him such a brilliant killer in the cockpit from his psychotic need to kill on the ground. He can't seem to sort out his murderous urges, either.
Perhaps having to portray such a brutal hater of women, who can't connect with them or understand them, led Wilson to not being able to treat her two female leads with enough care. After we have met all of the people in Rene's and Lucy's lives, become involved in their individual stories, at the end of The Lover we have no idea what happened to any of them. Unfortunately, after telling three people's stories, the dreadful Jim takes primary focus. Once his story is at an end, so is the book.