Book Review: “A Circle of Wives” by Alice LaPlante

There was a chance that Dr. John Taylor’s death would be ruled natural causes – he had experienced a heart attack in his hotel room, perhaps hitting his head on the dresser as he fell.  But investigators found a little more on the scene…  like the room key was missing, and the small injection puncture mark on his body.  Not long after the funeral, some other news came out.  Yes, he was married to Deborah.  But then he had also married MJ.  And six months ago, he married Helen too.  Did they know about each other?  More importantly, do they have alibis? Because it looks like they could all have one big motive.

I don’t often read these kind of psychological mysteries, but this is the book group’s read for the month.  I had read LaPlante’s previous novel, Turn of Mind , and remembered liking it (though I should probably go back and read that old review to be sure!) so I was looking forward to this book.  I was not disappointed.

This book is told completely from the perspective of the key females of the story.  The wives: Deborah, MJ, and Helen as well as the detective on the case, Samantha.  Each character grows and develops slowly, each contributing their piece to the whole story.  They each are very clearly separate people, and I found myself reading in different voices for each of them.  Deborah was very small, vain, and clenched.  MJ has a faint southern accent and is quite flowy – like the complete opposite of Deborah.  Helen is brilliant and serious, and I honestly felt like she could have something going on with her food issues and how isolated socially she is.  Samantha is quite immature and unable to commit to her longtime partner.  She is really quite selfish, but becomes completely obsessed with this case.

This life that John has built up is a little fascinating.  He has created three separate lives with each of these women, and he is and acts differently with each of them.  How this all came about is revealed quite early on, but it still was a wonder to me.  The facts of the case are slowly revealed, but momentum increases steadily from the middle of the book until the end.  Some of the twists surprised me, some I had guessed ahead of time – but the way it all clicks together was pretty great.  I had a lot of fun reading this!  Now, I wonder what the rest of the group thought?

*****

A Circle of Wives

by Alice LaPlante

Atlantic Monthly Press, 2014

310 pages

Source:  Library

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