Nora Roberts, “The Collector”

Putnam Adult; http://www.penguin.com/book/the-collector-by-nora-roberts/9780399164453Lila leads a nomadic, luxurious life, moving from stylish penthouse to villa and back as a housesitter. Her commitments are few and her belongings can fit in a couple of suitcases. But Lila’s fascination with people – and her neighbors – turns her calm existence into one chaotic after she witnesses a murder.

Plot Overview: Faberge, Collections and Chance

While gazing through her binoculars one evening, Lila sees a woman the victim of violence. Gasping at the attack, Lila fumbles for her phone to dial 911. Before she can call, she looks across to her neighbor’s again, only to see the woman fall through a glass window to the ground 14 floors below. Shocked, Lila calls the police.

At the police station, Lila runs into Ashton Archer, wealthy brother of the deceased woman’s murdered boyfriend, Oliver. Ash accurately pegs Lila as the witness, and the two embark on an uneasy alliance that quickly turns romantic.

Meanwhile, Jai Maddok, a beautiful, cunning killer, searches for a cherished item for her employer. Her investigation leads her first to Lila and Ash, then Ash’s uncle, whom she and her associate promptly kill.

Stunned by the murders, Lila and Ash, as well as their respective best friends, Julie and Luke, try to untwist the mystery behind the killings and the beloved object: a lost Faberge egg that Oliver found. The resulting cat-and-mouse game between Jai and her employer and the band of friends crosses oceans, passes through mansions and eventually ends in a bloody standoff.

Criticisms and Compliments

Nora Roberts’ latest, The Collector, while highly anticipated, falls just short of the mark. On the plus side, the plot is less formulaic, and Roberts acknowledges her nod to “Rear Window” within the first few chapters. The problem, however, lies with some of the characters. Lila is a friendly, open and independent woman, and her vibrant personality helps propel the story forward; her romance with Ash does not. Rather, Ash appears shallower on the page, and the dynamics of their relationship can be frustrating. As with many of Roberts’ novels that focus on a couple (or couples) uniting against a common enemy, the men take charge, and the women – though they protest otherwise – fall in line because the men love them and want to protect them. Why do all romance-genre novels have to feature a man (one wealthy and physically strong) riding in white knight-style to rescue a helpless female? Does the woman, even if she’s not helpless, have to capitulate to a man’s “superior” know-how? Why not focus on a more equitable partnership?

Like Ash and Lila’s relationship, Julie and Luke’s connection is not as developed as it could be. Considering the connection between the four friends, the B plot between the gallery manager and the baker could have been a more substantial addition to the story. Similarly, in the first third of the story, Roberts includes Jai’s narrative, but it disappears as the story develops; had Roberts kept Jai’s perspective, the story could have had a little more suspense.

Overall, The Collector is worth a read, but the novel is not one of Roberts’ best.

Source:

Roberts, Nora. The Collector. Putnam Adult, 2014 ISBN 9780399164453

Emily Perkins, “Novel About My Wife”

Bloomsbury USA; http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/novel-about-my-wife-9781408814420/In a Hackney house near a crumbling playground, a husband, devoted but cynical, builds his love for his wife on a foundation of denial; the wife, older, an artist, is coping with a psyche in crisis by creating odd clay talismans that litter the home and, by extension, the couple’s life. The man and woman attempt to focus on the impending arrival of their first child, but the marriage, like the playground, is falling apart, piece by piece.

Plot Overview: Spouses, Secrets and Mental Illness

Tom is a struggling, somewhat unlikeable screenwriter who made the choice between career and love long ago. Now, with his wife gone, he holds his grief close, and, in an attempt to reconcile the tragic path his life took, uses his writing skills to put his love into words.

Ann was Australian by birth, English by choice. With her background murky, Tom knows little of her life before they met. What he knows is her devotion to the unborn baby and, with the gift of hindsight, her increasingly bizarre behavior following a freak train derailment.

Ann begins to vigorously clean the house, complaining of smells that only she can detect. She also claims that a man is following her, but Tom finds little evidence of the stalker’s existence. Still, he supports his wife, even as she begins to cling to new friend Kate, wife of Simon, a successful T.V. and movie writer who also survived the train accident.

As Ann moves from first to second to third trimester, her body evolving to accommodate the growing baby, her mind regresses to a point from which she cannot return. She, like Tom before her, makes a choice, this one between love and life. And life loses.

Criticisms and Compliments

Novel About My Wife is unlike any book that has appeared on “The Book She Read.” It’s a stream-of-consciousness-esque study unencumbered by chapter breaks. The narrative is winding and, at times, confusing, reflective (the reader would think) of Tom’s struggle to understand the demise of his marriage, his wife and his life. And while the story is interesting, the climax – equally vague – is a little disappointing. Where are the sparks, the fire, the drama of the death of a woman beloved to the narrator?

Oddly, even though the premise and the characters are unique, Novel About My Wife is not a riveting read; it’s more like Richard Ford’s Canada, a well-received novel by an award-winning writer that’s more contemplative than action-filled.

Novel About My Wife is well written, but readers should be aware that the summary (a thrilling gothic tale of a couple dealing with madness and a stalker) is more exciting than the story that plays out on the pages.

Source:

  • Perkins, Emily. Novel About My Wife. Bloomsbury USA, 2008 ISBN 9781408814420

Book Sale!

Dear Readers,

While I have a book review planned (I’m in the middle of Emily Perkins’ A Novel About My Wife, which is structured unlike any other book I’ve read – no chapters!), I am so excited to share the new reads I got at my city’s annual book sale. Last year, I bought roughly 10 books, most of which I chose because I felt like I needed more intellectual reading material; I snatched up any books with award stickers. But then I never got around to reading them. This year, I took a different approach and bought books only from my current favored genre: mysteries. And I literally bought what I could carry (about a baker’s dozen of hardbacks). They are:

  • Sandra Brown, Deadline (What a find! I have been on the waiting list at the library for this book for weeks)
  • Harlan Coben, The Woods (A rarity – a Coben I haven’t read)
  • Michael Connelly, The Harry Bosch Novels: The Black Echo, The Black Ice, The Concrete Blonde (I am always inspired by journalists-turned-novelists; I’m hoping to join that club some day)
  • Sue Grafton, S Is for Silence (I’m on a mission to collect them all!)
  • John Grisham, The Confession
  • Kay Hooper, Sleeping with the Enemy (I haven’t read a romantic thriller in quite a while)
  • J.A. Jance, Queen of the Night
  • Ed McBain, Gladly the Cross-Eyed Bear
  • Sara Paretsky, Hard Time
  • James Patterson, Honeymoon (I made a promise to myself awhile ago that I would not read any more James Patterson unless he wrote the book by himself, but the truth is that I’ve been wanting to read Honeymoon for a long time)
  • Nancy Pickard, The Truth Hurts (Fingers crossed this one is as good as The Scent of Rain and Lightning, which I loved)
  • Lisa Scottoline, Accused
  • Karin Slaughter, Fracture (A favorite writer, through her grittiness occasionally borders on disturbing for me)
  • Jennifer Weiner, Then Came You (An exception to the mysteries-only approach)

I can’t wait to get started!

Sue Grafton, “D Is for Deadbeat”

St. Martin’s Paperbacks; http://us.macmillan.com/disfordeadbeat/suegraftonIn Kinsey Millhone’s latest case, there is an abundance of flaxen-haired suspects: the murder victim’s daughter, his (second) wife, three women related to a previous crime. The victim, John Daggett, was a charming conman with a taste for the bottle, and the collateral damage he left in his wake makes it easy for Kinsey to deduce who(might’ve)dunit; it’s separating one blonde from another, one alibi and motive from another, that proves to be her biggest challenge.

Plot Overview: Family, Enemies and Liars

When John Daggett first speaks with Kinsey, she knows something isn’t quite right, but she can’t pinpoint what it is. Daggett simply wants her to deliver a check for $25,000 to a Tony Gahan. He prepays for Kinsey’s services and slips out.

By Monday morning, Kinsey discovers that the paycheck bounced. The stingy private detective decides to track Daggett down – who would work for free? – only to find out from his battered wife, Lovella, that he’s hit the streets.

Before Kinsey can find him, his body washes up on the beach. Although one mystery is (sort of) solved, Kinsey has a hunch that Daggett was murdered. Now on his daughter, Barbara’s, payroll, Kinsey learns of Daggett’s other wife and a wealth of suspects. Daggett, an alcoholic, killed five people in an automobile accident a few years earlier; Tony Gahan was the only survivor of the family wiped out by the sot’s bender. Daggett served a short sentence and had only just been released when he sauntered into Kinsey’s office.

With plenty of potential murderers to sift through, Kinsey needs only eliminate who didn’t do it. But what if everyone had a reason to kill John Daggett?

Criticisms and Compliments

With D falling fourth in the alphabet, Grafton is just settling into the series, and D Is for Deadbeat allows her to focus on Kinsey’s greatest strength (and weakness): her vulnerability. Despite all of her protestations and her desire for solitude, Kinsey is a feeler. That is, she is deeply affected by those with whom she comes into contact. Case in point, Tony Gahan, the recipient of Daggett’s stolen $25,000. Like Kinsey, Tony’s parents were killed in a car accident, and an aunt is raising him. He’s also troubled, and though he sees a therapist, his grades are low, his social life practically non-existent, and he is plagued by migraines.

Although Kinsey has “all the feelings” (which gives her an appealing depth and explains her loner tendencies), she has a dry sense of humor that balances out her range of emotions. If only all detectives were as moved by the incoherent ramblings of a rabid religious fanatic at a funeral that features a wax-like corpse and a drunken wife clad in a cocktail dress.

D Is for Deadbeat is an entertaining read, and like all of the books in the series, features consistently good writing and unforgettable characters.

Source:

  • Grafton, Sue. D Is for Deadbeat. Henry Holt and Co., 2010 ISBN 9781429909327

E. Lockhart, “We Were Liars”

Cover design, Heather Kelly; http://www.randomhouse.com/book/211497/we-were-liars-by-e-lockhart“I like a twist of meaning,” Cadence Sinclair Eastman says. At 17 years old, the upper-class, white daughter of a prominent family bears the semblance of old money: a big house, a private-school education, a tendency toward romanticizing wealth (and poverty). In reality, however, Cady suffers from selective amnesia and is plagued by migraines. Her memories of her last summer at the family island, Beechwood, are shrouded with trauma, and she only knows that something led her to a head injury.

Plot Overview: Friends, Memories and Tragedy

Cadence has spent every summer on Beechwood Island with her cousins, Johnny and Mirren, and Johnny’s pseudo-cousin, Gat, through his mother’s Indian boyfriend. When Cadence and Gat first meet, attraction sparks into love.

While summer on a private beach may seem idyllic for the teenagers, trouble is brewing in another generation. Cadence’s mom, Penny, and her two sisters, Carrie and Bess, have little to show for a life built on trust fund money, excellent educations and shopping. The desire to keep up appearances drives the three sisters to greed and gives their widowed father the power to game play. Frustrated, the women turn to their children to win affection from Granddad.

The teens refuse to appeal to Granddad’s (lack of) generosity, and though Cadence’s memory is hazy, she and Johnny, Mirren and Gat, “The Liars,” seek independence from family schemes. But then Cady wakes up in a hospital room, her mind wiped of summer memories. It’s only when she returns to Beechwood Island two years later that she figures out what that independence was, what the feud lead to, and what little meaning there is in money and manipulation.

Criticisms and Compliments

We Were Liars owes much of its popularity to good marketing: “We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from New York Times bestselling author, National Book Award finalist, and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. Read it. And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.” And, to give credit where credit is due, the ending is good (if a rule-breaker), and the story itself is surprisingly fast-paced; it’s possible to read the entire novel in one afternoon.

Despite the quick pacing and twist ending, however, We Were Liars suffers from a couple of weaknesses. First, the story is one of romance and family dysfunction, but Lockhart also touches on race relations and socio-economic status; had she incorporated those aspects more, the novel could have had more depth (though, in all fairness, the narrator is a teenager, not an adult). Second, Cadence varies from linear storytelling to speaking in verse to creating fairytales based on her family’s problems. The differing styles could be reflective of her head injury and her muddled memory (the ambiguous timeline in her stories certainly does), but it reads a little funny.

In any case, We Were Liars is meant for young teen readers who would most likely be shocked by the ending and charmed by Cadence’s narration.

Source:

  • E. Lockhart. We Were Liars. Delacorte Press, 2014 ISBN 9780385741262

Markus Zusak, “The Book Thief”

Cover image, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; http://www.randomhouse.com/book/196153/the-book-thief-by-markus-zusakAlthough Death is busy in the late 1930s and early 1940s, the life of a girl piques his interest. He comes close to her over the years, lifting up the souls of the ones she loves to a sometimes milky white, other times red or gray sky. But he waits for her long after World War Two ends, taking her hand to relive her past. She was the book thief.

Plot Overview: Loss, Survival and Death

When Death first meets Liesel, she is on a train with her mother and her brother, Werner; it is he whom Death visits. As Death carries the little boy away, Liesel turns to discover Werner staring blankly at the floor. What follows is the start of Liesel’s thieving (and nightmares); after she and her mother bury the boy, Liesel pockets her first stolen book, The Grave Digger’s Handbook.

Liesel soon finds herself living with foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann, on Himmel (Heaven) Street in Molching, Germany. Rosa is a foul-mouthed, rough woman with a big heart; Hans is silver-eyed and kind. He discovers Liesel’s inability to read and write, so every night, when she wakes screaming from nightmares, he sits with her to read.

Liesel world soon expands to include Rudy Steiner, the boy-next-door with a crush on his new neighbor; the mayor’s wife, a client of Rosa, who has an extensive private library; and, eventually, Max, a fist-fighting Jew hiding in the Hubermann’s basement.

Despite Liesel’s growing happiness (and stealing habits), death is never too far way. Neither is war.

Criticisms and Compliments

What’s remarkable about The Book Thief is not its subject (there are several excellent World War II reads for young adults – Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars, The Diary of Anne Frank, John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pajamas), nor its descriptions of tragedy, but the language. Markus Zusak writes unlike any other. What is invisible becomes visible (not unlike Death), what is inanimate becomes animate, what is normal becomes extraordinary. A small sample:

  • “‘Christ!’ shouted Arthur. ‘The Farmer!’ It was his next word, however, that frightened. He called it out as if he’d already been attacked with it. His mouth ripped open. The word flew out, and the word was ax.”
  • “Outside, through the circle she’d made, Liesel could see the tall man’s fingers, still holding the cigarette. Ash stumbled from its edge and lunged and lifted several times until it hit the ground.”
  • “Their glasses chimed together, and the moment Liesel raised it to her mouth, she was bitten by the fizzy, sickly sweet taste of champagne. Her reflexes forced her to spit it on her papa’s overalls, watching it foam and drizzle. A shot of laughter followed from all of them, and Hans encouraged her to give it another try. On the second attempt, she was able to swallow it and enjoy the taste of a glorious broken rule. It felt great. The bubbles ate her tongue. They prickled her stomach. Even as they walked to the next job, she could feel the warmth of pins and needles inside her.”

The use of texture continues with Death’s (and Zusak’s) use of color. The color of the sky, of Rudy’s hair, of blood and flags and snow all contribute to the surreal quality of a book that deals with heavy topics (war, death, torn families and shattered relationships).

Simply, The Book Thief is unique. Readers long past their teen years will enjoy Death’s quirky narrative and the parallels of innocence and grief, luck and fate.

As a final note: The film adaptation is excellent, though it simplifies the relationship between Rudy and his many enemies. It’s definitely worth a watch after a read.

Source:

  • Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief. Alfred A. Knopf, 2013 ISBN 9780385754729

C.J. Box, “Back of Beyond”

Minotaur Books; http://us.macmillan.com/books/9780312365745Cody Hoyt would give anything for a drink. To feel the burn as it slides down his throat, the warmth as it settles into his belly. But one drink would be too much for the damaged cop struggling with two months of sobriety. So he forges ahead to a crime scene, climbing the mountains of Montana while a downpour slows his progress. He steps out of his vehicle, flashlight in hand, to inspect the partially burned cabin where hikers reported seeing a body. And a body there is – Hoyt’s AA sponsor.

Plot Overview: Alcoholism, Family Ties and Murder

Hoyt is an investigator as damaged as they come. He’s been divorced, fired, absent from his son, a functioning (and non-functioning) alcoholic, a screw-up. He’s gone rogue before, and Larry, his new partner in Helena, has warned him not to do so again.

When Hoyt and Larry assess Hank Winters’ death, Hoyt knows with the instinct of a weathered detective that the death was not accidental; Winters was murdered. Emotional and far from objective, Hoyt trips and falls into the bottle again, while Larry doggedly pursues the case from all angles, one of which leads to Yellowstone National Park.

There, a manipulative outfitter, Jed McCarthy, is preparing to take a group of tourists through the country on his “Back of Beyond” horse trip. One member of the group is Hoyt’s son, Justin. Another? The killer.

Hoyt, having been kicked off the force after accidentally-on-purpose shooting the coroner, pursues the killer as a civilian. Little does the city cop realize, however, the magnitude of danger that lies in the wild – not only from animals, but also from man.

Criticisms and Compliments

Generally speaking, readers cannot go wrong by reading Edgar Award-winning writers. Box is such a writer. Sure, the plot of Back of Beyond might border on formulaic (and the story behind Rachel, one of the campers, seems a little far-fetched), but it’s a thrilling read. The characters are well-drawn, and Box flits between Hoyt, Jed and Gracie, a young trip participant as intuitive as she is brave, as each expertly analyzes the company.

The main character in Back of Beyond, however, is nature. Box has a clear understanding of survival and weakness, and pitting man against nature only emphasizes the violence that exists when laws are absent. (Plus, Box’s descriptions of Yellowstone are fascinating, especially for readers not so inclined towards roughin’ it.)

Overall, Back of Beyond is a good, solid read and proves the rule holds: You can’t go wrong with an Edgar Award winner.

Source:

  • Box, C.J. Back of Beyond. Minotaur Books, 2012 ISBN 9780312366124

Sue Grafton, E Is for Evidence

St. Martin’s Paperbacks; http://us.macmillan.com/eisforevidence/suegraftonKinsey Millhone’s problems started with the $5,000. The money wasn’t hers, and though notoriously frugal, she isn’t entirely amoral (though she does enjoy a good B&E). Irritated, she tries to fix the issue, only to find herself thwarted by the holiday season. She shifts her focus to an investigation, but little does the intrepid detective realize that she is soon to be the collateral damage of a family shoving aside the generous spirit of the season for money, murder and revenge.

Plot Overview: Family, Secrets and Exes

At Christmas, Kinsey, the consummate loner, is lonely. Henry, her landlord, and Rosie, the Hungarian proprietor of Kinsey’s favorite bar, are gone for several days, and Kinsey is eager for distraction.

Despite her frustration over the seemingly random deposit, Kinsey agrees to investigate an insurance claim for California Fidelity, which provides the detective her office for the occasional use of her services. The company she’s entrusted to check out, Wood/Warren, happens to belong to the family of one of her high school classmates. Eager to get started – and to dispel some of the holiday loneliness – Kinsey sets about her normal routine of digging into backgrounds, probing secrets and following her instincts.

What happens, however, is something even Kinsey couldn’t predict: she’s framed for the arson, fired from her job and booted out of her office. The worst part of the whole mess? The arrival of her ex-husband, Daniel.

For a detective seriously lacking in holiday cheer, the addition of potential murder and conspiracy charges – and witnessing a bombing – are just extra surprises in her stocking of coal. But Kinsey isn’t one to back down, even if it means wishing a fond farewell to her career.

Criticisms and Compliments

E Is for Evidence, though a good read, deviates from the other books in the series. Kinsey, rather than sifting through the lives and lies of strangers, deals not only with those she knows, but those with whom she has a history: the Wood sisters, her co-workers, her ex-husband. If anything, E Is for Evidence is more of an examination of Kinsey’s backstory, the path between Point A (when her parents were killed and she moved in with her aunt) and Point B (her current life). As is typical, the path is shadowy and clouded with pain, particularly with Kinsey’s relationship with Daniel, who, it turns out, abandoned her for someone else. All in all, it is no mystery (pun not intended) why she prefers her own company.

Grafton also delves deeper into family relationships and bonds, a not uncommon method in her stories. The difference in E Is for Evidence, however, is that those bonds are disturbing. Secrets are one thing; abuse is another.

Like its predecessors, E Is for Evidence captures a solid mystery, but readers should expect to spend time with a Kinsey more depressed and vulnerable than usual.

Source:

  • Grafton, Sue. E Is for Evidence. St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 2005 ISBN 9780312939038

John Sandford, “Naked Prey”

Berkley; http://www.penguin.com/book/naked-prey-by-john-sandford/9780425195444It all started on a snowy night. He followed Jane Warr to her home in Broderick, Minn., and caught her as she was parking in the garage. Inside, he found Deon Cash. He beat Cash, stripped and bound both man and woman, and drove to a nearly hidden copse of trees. There, he tied the knots, strung the rope, and hung the two, leaving the interracial couple as the victims of a lynching. Or so it seemed.

Plot Overview: Mayhem, Murder and Minnesota

Lucas Davenport is content with marriage and fatherhood, but the excitement of his position with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension only highlights the dull stability of his home life. When he’s dispatched to clean up the lynching in Broderick, Davenport rubs his hands at the challenge. With his loyal number two, Del Capslock, at his side, he makes the journey to the frozen tundra of small-town northern Minnesota in January.

Broderick is just a patch of a place, barely alive, but Capslock and Davenport catch hints of activity. The question they struggle with, however, is how much is coincidence? Could more than one ongoing crime be related? What kind of connection (if there is one) exists between the murders, a nearby kidnapping, the local bodyshop and the comings and goings of a small group of ex-nuns?

Part of the answer lies with one of the toughest Minnesotans around: 12-year-old Letty West. West stumbled upon the bodies when checking on her muskrat traps, and her know-how and know-it-all attitude help Davenport and Capslock puzzle out the town – though their dependence on West does little to keep her safe.

Criticisms and Compliments

Naked Prey, Sandford’s 14th installment in the Lucas Davenport series, has all the hallmarks of a great mystery read: an excellent, Fargo-like setting, memorable characters (Letty West, Ruth, the Singletons), and a plot with enough twists and turns to keep the reader engaged. Like Harlan Coben, Sandford doles out clues piece by piece, but the explanations of each come chapters later. Example (SPOILER): The reader knows that the nuns are involved in a drug-smuggling business at the Minnesota-Canadian border. It’s not until much later that Sandford reveals the drugs are actually cancer drugs supplied to the elderly and those who couldn’t otherwise afford them. It’s a sneaky technique and an effective one.

Like other series (Sue Grafton’s Alphabet series, Patricia Cornwell’s Scarpetta series), there is always an issue with backstory: how much is too much, how little is too little? With Naked Prey, Sandford explains the changes in Davenport and his boss, Rose Marie Roux’s, careers, but there’s no background given on their previous positions. Of course, it also doesn’t really matter; Naked Prey is about Broderick, about Letty, and about Davenport and Capslock doing what they do best: kicking some ass

Naked Prey is a good one. Check it out.

Source:

  • Sandford, John. Naked Prey. Berkley, 2004 ISBN 9780425195444

Anita Shreve, “The Pilot’s Wife”

Cover design, Julia Sedykh; http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/anita-shreve/the-pilots-wife/9780316789080/Kathryn Lyons thought she knew her husband, her marriage, her family. Her relationship with Jack had become stale over the years, and her bond with her daughter had soured as the girl aged into a teen, but they had been happy once. They were a unit. When Jack is killed in an airplane explosion – and all signs point to Kathryn’s pilot husband having committed suicide, taking hundreds with him – Kathryn finds herself asking an inevitable question: Did she ever really know the man she loved the most?

Plot Overview: Secrecy, Identity and Love

When the knocking at the door woke her at 3 a.m., Kathryn knew. Every pilot’s wife knows that moment. The aftermath, however, the pain and grief and struggle to keep the strands of her life from tangling, was what Kathryn couldn’t predict.

Kathryn and 15-year-old Mattie find solace at Kathryn’s mother’s house, but snippets of rumors and media reports filter in. Jack committed suicide. Jack was a murderer who killed 300 people. Jack had secrets. Determined to protect her daughter from the spotlight, Kathryn looks for her own answers.

The widow finds hints of a double life and, reflecting back on the years of benign contentment, red flags of a marriage in trouble. With help from union representative Robert Hart, Kathryn travels from Boston to the rainy streets of London – Jack’s route – to search for answers. And though she unearths the truth, it’s almost too much for her bruised heart to bear.

Criticisms and Compliments

The Pilot’s Wife, like most of Shreve’s novels, tips toward the pensive side of the narrative scale. Shreve’s prose tends to be gentle and informative, and the sea, particularly in this novel, which includes the same remarkable beach house as Fortune’s Rock and Sea Glass, is as much a character as her protagonists.

Although Jack’s manner of death is the catalyst to the story, Kathryn is the stable point around which the plot pivots, the calm within the storm. She is, of course, struggling with grief, but Shreve paints her as a less volatile, passionate character than Mattie or Jack. The problem with Kathryn is when (SPOILER ALERT) she travels to London and confronts the other woman. Despite Muira’s cruelty, especially her blunt descriptions of Jack’s love for her, Kathryn merely absorbs the blow. For a story about betrayal and passion, Kathryn is oddly dispassionate when the truth comes to light.

Still, for fans of Anita Shreve, The Pilot’s Wife is one of her best, and those with a love of the sea will enjoy her work.

Final thought: The Pilot’s Wife was published in 1998; how might readers have perceived Jack’s role in the airplane explosion differently if the book had been published after 9/11?

Source:

  • Anita Shreve, The Pilot’s Wife. Little, Brown and Company, 1998 ISBN 9780316789089