I love reading debut author novels. Not only because I still hope I might one day write something worthy of publishing, but because—if it’s good—I’ve another author to add to my stable of favourites. And happily for me, I can add Atlanta writer Susan Crawford to my list.
Dana has just arrived home one afternoon when her neighbour and erstwhile friend Celia calls her over. Already well on her way to sangria-induced merriment Celia pulls out her mobile phone to show Dana a picture of her husband dining intimately with a buxom beauty. The photo’s grainy but Dana’s fairly sure it’s her husband Peter. Celia’s married, so her outrage at Peter’s adultery makes no sense to Dana, unless…..
To cope with the news Dana joins Celia for some sangria and then some vodka and—unsurprisingly—they argue.
Dana doesn’t remember leaving Celia’s and stumbling home. She’s later woken by sirens, horrified to discover they’re enroute to her neighbour’s house where Celia’s husband has found her bloodied body.
Dana struggles to piece together memories of the afternoon, but what she does remember gives her cause to think that she may be responsible for Celia’s death.
The Pocket Wife unfolds in third person but mostly from the viewpoint of Dana. And… she’s not necessarily a reliable guide. A manic-depressive Dana’s behaviour was already spiralling out of control thanks to her unhappy marriage and the departure of her only child for college. She’s basically friendless, doesn’t sleep and drives around half of the night trying to calm herself. Her husband Peter tries to encourage her to return to her therapist, but Dana’s now on a mission… she needs to learn the truth about Celia’s murder.
But she doesn’t know what to believe – her own memories are murky and she’s not sure she can trust them. There’s no longer an incriminating photo of Peter on Celia’s phone, so Dana wonders if she imagined the whole thing. And then there are the threatening notes she’s receiving—which her husband thinks she’s written to herself. Dana’s self-doubt causes her to unravel even further.
Officially on the case is Detective Jack Moss who has no shortage of suspects. Celia’s husband Ronald’s lying about his whereabouts at the time of Celia’s death; Dana and Peter are obviously in the mix; and then there’s Jack’s estranged son Kyle, who was Celia’s student, or possibly even more! Hovering over his shoulder is the beautiful, flirty and ambitious first assistant prosecutor, Lenore, poised to pounce on her retiring boss’s job.
The Pocket Wife is Crawford’s debut novel and—quite frankly—it’s a goodie. The plot of this psychological thriller is substantial and keeps us guessing; the book’s well-written, well-paced and the characters are strong.
I’ve been having some discussions (via blog comments) with another couple of book bloggers. They (and others) have compared Dana to Rachel, the alcoholic (and rather messed-up) narrator of The Girl on The Train. I agree. Both have their issues yet present their thoughts and actions to us in a very frank and confronting manner. I did, however, find Dana far more likeable than Rachel. She’s incredibly flawed, but very engaging and I was well and truly on her side.
The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford was released in Australia via Allen & Unwin on 25 March 2015.
I received a copy of this book for review purposes.