“The Wife” by Alafair Burke (Harper, 340 pages, $26.99)
Sometimes a writer gets lucky. A few years ago Don Winslow published “The Cartel,” his second novel about the Mexican drug wars. One of the main characters in that book was a fictional drug lord who was running the Sinaloa Cartel. As it opens, the drug lord makes a daring escape from a high-security prison. A few weeks after that book came out the actual leader of the real Sinaloa Cartel, a fellow known as “El Chapo,” escaped from a Mexican prison.
Winslow based his fictional drug lord in part upon “El Chapo,” so the timing of his prison break could not have been any better — it brought Winslow’s novel lots of extra attention. “The Cartel” is a tremendous novel — that fortunate coincidence certainly did not hurt his book sales.
Alafair Burke began writing her latest mystery novel “The Wife” a year ago when a few high-profile celebrities like Biil Cosby were defending themselves against allegations of being sexual harassers or even sexual predators. But the current #MeToo wave of accusations was still in the future as she began composing her story.
As the novel opens, her central character is married to a celebrity professor who is about to become engulfed in a scandal involving accusations that he is a sexual harasser. “The Wife” was released as our real-world wave of similar allegations is cresting. Ruined careers and reputations are accumulating as this storm of revelations is showing no signs of diminishing any time soon. What timing! Sometimes a writer gets lucky.
As “The Wife,” Angela has been married to Jason for six years. She has a teen-aged son from a prior relationship. When Angela met Jason she never expected him to propose marriage to her and when he did, she was thrilled because it was an opportunity for her to change her life and have a father for her son.
Jason has published a best-selling book. His growing status as a celebrity is causing his career to skyrocket. He has started a consulting business that is on the verge of becoming very lucrative. He makes frequent appearances as a guest on TV shows. Jason is planning to formally adopt Angela’s son.
How could their lives get any better? That’s when a young woman who works as an intern for Jason accuses him of making sexual advances toward her. When Angela is confronted by the media and by the police about the accusation against her husband, she stands by her man. She believes his accuser is lying.
As Jason’s career goes into free fall, Angela still has his back. Then another woman comes forward with an allegation against Jason that is even worse than the claims being made by the intern. Angela is feeling worried and conflicted. You see, Angela has a dark secret of her own and the media storm surrounding Jason is threatening to expose something about her past.
Alafair Burke executes a plot twist at the end of “The Wife” that left this reviewer gasping in awe.