Monday, May 26, 2014

"A Circle of Wives," by Alice LaPlante

A friend casually mentioned with approval the author Alice LaPlante, so I picked up and read a copy of her new novel, “A Circle of Wives” (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2014). All my life, I have had phases of enjoying mysteries and reading many of them, and phases of being tired of them and not reading any for years at a time. However, I have generally not liked the genre of thrillers or suspense novels. This book is a sort of literary, domestic mystery/psychological thriller, and I must say it is well written, suspenseful, and entertaining. The mystery is the murder of a respected plastic surgeon whose body has been found in a hotel room (and what was he doing there?) in Palo Alto (and readers of this blog know I enjoy books set in my geographical area, the San Francisco Bay Area; as a side note, LaPlante also lives and teaches in the Bay Area). The three main characters are the wives of the title: the three very different wives of the surgeon, to be exact. It turns out that only one wife, the first, knew about the others. Somehow the surgeon managed a busy, complicated career and being part of three different households. The other main character is the young detective assigned to the case, Samantha Adams, who has her own issues with personal relationships. So the mystery is, of course, the identity of the killer, as well as how she/he pulled it off. And LaPlante constructs a strong and mystifying puzzle, as good mystery writers should. What makes this book more than a mystery is the character development, the setting, and the very capable writing. This is a great summer read, an intriguing mystery with literary flair and panache.
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