Title: A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Summary: Set in 1907 Wisconsin, Goolrick's fiction debut gets off to a slow, stylized start, but eventually generates some real suspense. When Catherine Land, who's survived a traumatic early life by using her wits and sexuality as weapons, happens on a newspaper ad from a well-to-do businessman in need of a "reliable wife," she invents a plan to benefit from his riches and his need. Her new husband, Ralph Truitt, discovers she's deceived him the moment she arrives in his remote hometown. Driven by a complex mix of emotions and simple animal attraction, he marries her anyway. After the wedding, Catherine helps Ralph search for his estranged son and, despite growing misgivings, begins to poison him with small doses of arsenic. Ralph sickens but doesn't die, and their story unfolds in ways neither they nor the reader expect.
Review:I found the beginning unnecessarily confusing but it did pick up and find a rhythm...a choppy rhythm but a rhythm nonetheless. I found the characters intriguing even if the plot was a bit obvious, maybe I've read one too many romance novels for the plot to be a mystery. I wasn't surprised at the the way things turned out but I was surprised by some of the choices the characters made and some of the ways in which they got to where I expected them to go.
There were some disturbing rambling thoughts in some of the characters heads, of obsessive lust, possessiveness and violence that I wasn't sure what to make of and found them to be over the top. Did I love it? I'm still debating that but I think I enjoyed the adventure. Since this is Goolrick's first novel I am interested in seeing what he does next.