First Sentence: From the top of Primrose Hill, silhouetted against the arriving day, the spires and domes of London look like the painted backdrop of a Pinewood sound stage waiting for actors to take their places and an unseen director to yell 'Action'.
Psychologist Joe O'Laughlin is coping with Parkinson's, recent widowhood, and raising his two daughters. Receiving a call that his father has been attacked and in a coma introduces yet another challenge. Who is the woman, covered in his father's blood, sitting at the bedside claiming to be his father's wife? Investigating the attack, and the people surrounding his father, completely alters Joe's views and knowledge of his parent's lives.
We begin at the beginning, which is very nice, and with a concise introduction to Joe, what has led to his present stage of life, and to those around him. In describing Joe's relationship with his father, we gain an even greater empathy for him.
Robotham's dialogue is excellent; quick, natural, and realistic such as that between Joe and his youngest daughter, Emma. There is also a very real understanding of what can be the impact on a child of losing a parent—"Emma worries about me because I am the last parent standing. When we cross the street, she insists on holding my hand—not to protect herself, but to protect me." The portrayal of their relationship is touching without being saccharine or contrived.
The observation about secrets is something which causes one to pause and consider—"Secrets are valuable. We lie to protect a relationship, or get a job. Or keep the peace, or win the girl, or protect a child. In a deep psychological sense, we have no self unless we have a secret." How true and universal, as is the statement—"I began to understand that day that Dad was a product of his own upbringing, just as I am." And isn't that something with which we all struggle?
In addition to the characters we meet at the beginning, one learns, or is reminded, that Joe can't stand the sight of blood, which makes him wonderfully human. Robotham skillfully conveys the challenges faced by Joe in living with Parkinson's; his frustration and occasional rage of being subject to its limitations. Then there's Vincent Ruiz, a former cop and Joe's best friend. What a wonderful character he is. He's a character who both makes one smile, and one wish for such a person in their own life…maybe. DI Macdermid is a true copper, neither friend nor enemy but realistically drawn in his pragmatism—"I wish we could swap jobs for a day, Professor. … I have…two sons—one who hears voices from God and the other who thinks he's God's gift."
This is a story about families, and secrets, and the lengths to which one is willing to go for one's family. It's about the fact that—"Life isn't fair or unfair. It is what it is."--and that "Our fates are gloriously uncertain and the arrogance of believing that human tragedy is justified because it's part of some holy blueprint is intolerable." It also contains very good suspense, well-executed twists, and embroidery-worthy lessons—"Remember, Joseph, the worst hour of your life only last for sixty minutes." There is an ending one doesn't foresee and a final chapter which may set the tears flowing. While in general not a fan of the current trend for 400-page mysteries, this was 400 pages which flew by.
"The Other Wife" is a rollercoaster of twists and surprises, filled with excellent characters, thought-provoking truths, and an ending of hope.
THE OTHER WIFE (Myst-Joe O'Laughlin-England-Contemp) - Ex
Sphere – Oct 2018