Monday, March 10, 2014

Review: A Circle of Wives by Alice LaPlante

The idea that we never quite know who we've chosen to live the rest of our lives with is always an interesting mystery. Many of the best mystery novels are built on this premise and have maybe influenced those with eyes wide shut to get a grip. A Circle of Wives by Alice LaPlante explores this topic and turns it on its head.

A prominent reconstruction surgeon is found dead in an upscale hotel. At first glance, it appears the deceased has died of an apparent heart attack. After closer inspection, rookie detective, Samantha Adams believes that he may have in fact been murdered. Not only does one suspect surface, but 3 very likely suspects.

Behind all the accolades and successful veneer is a man who has three wives. Dr John Taylor lived three different lives, in three separate homes, and loved three very different women. The novel jumps from wives narrative to the other as well as Detective Adams view. The main question is which one in this circle of wives is the one who decided that they would be happier if death do them part?

Alice LaPlant sucks readers in with the first narrative from MJ. She begins describing the funeral of her husband and a family she doesn't belong to. Out of all the wives, she is the most endearing. She seems like a gullible, flighty southern belle who just happens upon a good life after so many let downs. The novel then shifts to Helen. Out of all the wives, she is the most accomplished and seemingly the best fit for Dr Taylor. Although she seems cold and distant, as her character is more developed, she obviously becomes someone I found to care what happens to her after the story ended.

Then we have the "real" wife Deborah. Wow! She is quite a piece of work. Although I didn't like her from the beginning, I think her story balances out the trio. What ultimately causes her to fall flat for me is that I can't see past her barrier. She never becomes someone I warmed up to. In a mystery novel I always hope there's some sort of redeeming quality in a main character that makes me not want to shout "guilty" to the top of my lungs each time their narrative is in play.

For much of the novel I kept thinking to myself that I don't really, I mean really really like any of the characters. There are so many red flags about all of them that I almost couldn't take it anymore. What kept me reading this book is that LaPlante is actually a pretty good writer and the pages just seemed to whiz past. I had to know who killed this polygamist who's personal life was a mess, but was actually a pretty good guy. How could someone not fall in love with a man who performs facial reconstruction on children pro bono? Well... obviously someone or else he wouldn't be dead.

My overall impression of this novel is that I did enjoy reading it. Alice LaPlante has definitely got my attention and I will look forward to what's next for her. I only hope that she provides me with one character who doesn't scream suspect. ***

Copy provided by Atlantic Monthly Press via Netgalley

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