A Circle of Wives

9780802122346_p0_v2_s260x420Who killed the plastic surgeon with three wives?  Alice La Plante’s latest who-dun-it expands the likely suspects beyond the obvious possibilities in A Circle of Wives to sustain the mystery until the end.

When Dr. John Taylor, the altruistic plastic surgeon who saves children’s lives, is found murdered in a hotel room, his reputation suffers some tarnishing when his three wives appear at the funeral.  La Plante alternates the action among the three: Deborah, the long-suffering and calculating first wife who holds the ten million dollar life insurance policy and orchestrated her husband’s life; MJ, the seedy accountant who loves to garden and has an abused brother who needs money; and Helen, the ambitious doctor who is pregnant with his child.  The fourth voice in the story belongs to the young detective, Samantha Adams, who pursues the murder, and has her own personal problems, not the least of which is her lack of self-confidence. As she interviews each wife, her own story weaves into the drama and nothing is as it seems.

With La Plante’s style of short sentences and steady dialogue, the story clicks along at a steady pace, and will hook you into solving the crime as you read.  As she slowly reveals the possible motivation that each wife has to kill, La Plante manages to distract and foil the reader through a series of viable possibilities.

Sam Adams solves the case and confronts the murderer, in a scene worthy of Agatha Christie – all questions are answered, all loose ends resolved – yet the story ends on ambivalent note – will the murderer be punished or held accountable?  Unlike Monk or Columbo, Sam Adams seems satisfied without the “admissible evidence to convict.”  You can decide if justice is served.


What’s in a Face…?

Ever catch yourself in a reflection, or see a picture of yourself when you were not posing?  Did it look like what you thought you look like?

art by Sandra Cohen

Denise Grady, science reporter for the New York Times, notes that “people make instant judgments…we often judge unconsciously…”  I had noticed an elderly woman seated across the room from me in the botany lab, but later when I was introduced to her in the student lounge, and we engaged in lively conversation, I did not recognize her as the same frumpy gray-haired person in the class.  Her animated interest in the readings disguised her – I only saw her eyes, and was surprised to find she was the same person I had dismissed earlier.

Grady reviews how the face ages – better for some, but not as good as we’d like to believe – an indicator of health and experience, both good and bad.

My favorite piece is her ending:

The mind-body mismatch can sting in other ways.  A graying baby boomer told this story about himself.  He was standing in a crowded subway car in Manhattan when a pretty young woman seated nearby, caught his eye and smiled.  He smiled back, pleased to think that maybe he still had the right stuff after all.  Then she offered him her seat.

Read the article – here