Book Review - Jackie K Cooper
THE OTHER WIDOW by Susan Crawford
Susan Crawford, THE POCKET WIFE, gets better with each novel she produces. Her best, however, is still to come. In her latest book, THE OTHER WIDOW, she creates a story of adultery, murder and retribution which snares the readers' interest but never completely satisfies the need for explainable detail. You are almost satisfied after finishing the story, but not quite.
Dorrie Keating is the woman at the heart of the story. She is married and has one child. She wants to be an actress but has had to settle for being a worker at a home repair company. One of her bosses is a guy named Joe and for her happiness is a thing called Joe. She enters into an affair with him while still being committed to her family.
After Joe is killed in a car accident, Dorrie continues to work at his company. She also stays with her unaware husband. There is an insurance investigator named Maggie Brennan who snoops around and finally warns Dorrie she does not think Joe's death was an accident. Dorrie has had some feelings she is being watched and/or followed.
Crawford does a good job of keeping the suspense at an appreciable level while moving the story ever forward. The problem is the reader never completely understands Dorrie or Joe's wife Karen. Who are they? What are their feelings? What do they want? The character that is most fully delineated is Maggie. She is a former soldier turned police officer turned insurance investigator. She is given less space in the story than the other two women but she also is the one who most fully emerges from the pages.
One of the things about this book that fascinates me is that the book is broken up into chapters, each focusing on one of the three women - Dorrie, Karen and Maggie. In each chapter the typeface is different. Dorrie has her own style of type, Karen has hers, etc. It makes for a psychological mindset when you move from chapter to chapter and immediately brings the character into quick focus. I have never seen this done before and it is intriguing.
There is also the "reveal" in the final chapter. When I first read it I interpreted it one way, but then later interpreted it another. This caused me to go back and read and reread crucial lines of explanation. I am still not convinced I got it right - and an ending that can be that ambiguous but still logical is a pretty good ending.
Susan Crawford is certainly moving in the right direction with her stories. She is a good novelist now but I am betting she gets even better.
THE OTHER WIDOW is published by Harper. It contains 352 pages and sells for $26.99.
Jackie K Cooper