Open "The Silent Wife," by A. S. A. Harrison, and meet Jodi and Todd. They live in a gorgeous Chicago condo. She's a part-time psychologist working from home; he's a renovation expert and developer who makes enough money to provide them with an enviable and affluent lifestyle. They've not married, but have been living together for twenty years; their life has become an ongoing stable and emotionally satisfying routine of mutually met obligations and expectations. They have no children, so they each have sufficient time to indulge in whatever interests them. Jodi loves to play the perfect domestic diva taking care of Todd and Todd loves to be taken care of. Jodi loves doing her spa visits and Pilates sessions; Todd loves having sex with other women...and being confident that his accepting wife will ignore and forgive these dalliances. This is their routine. They seem ideally suited to it, and to each other...their lives in perfect balance. To readers, their relationship might seem unusual, and neither of them might be the type of people we'd like to have as friends. In fact, I am sure that many who read this novel will take an instant dislike to these two fictional antiheros. But of course, readers are not required to like these characters. Rather, what readers need to be able to do is to figure out how to understand them. Why? Because that's a good part of the pleasure of this novel.
In the beginning, we are told that this novel is all about a murder. Jodi will be the murderer and Todd the victim...and it will take only "a few short months" to "make a killer out of her."
So you might ask: with a novel that starts like that, how could it possibly be marketed as a thriller? Where's the suspense?
In fact, there's plenty of delight and surprise in this captivating cerebral psychological thriller. It's a thriller because we readers must ultimately understand and figure out the complex psychological unfolding of "the how" and "the why." And if you can see and understand the emotional dynamics of what is happening, you'll find a great deal of humor (oh yes, very black and subtle) all along the way. This is an intricate and impressive dance of inner survival where both characters keep stumbling no matter how hard they try to make the right move.
The book covers the few short months while this relationship is coming apart. In detail, we learn of the events that propel these two toward their fates. The story is told in alternating chapters from Jodi's and Todd's points of view. As readers, we exist in these character's minds. We are privy to their inner motivations, rationalizations, distortions, and self-delusions. But with two separate and very differing viewpoints, readers are left to figure out what really is going on. That's what's fun. That's part of the thrill.
The author expects her readers to have a high social IQ and a fair amount of arm-chair academic psychological knowledge...and what she figures readers may not know, she explains--of course not directly, but the psychological facts are there, hidden in the fabric of the storytelling. Perhaps you'll recognize these "lessons" when you see them, or perhaps you'll just pick them up subconsciously along the way. In either case, you should eventually start to understand how these characters are fated--by their pasts, and by their own specific and differing temperaments and character flaws--to affect what happens in their lives.
This is a very clever book--intelligent, compelling, and exceedingly well written. If my review has piqued your interest, you are probably one of those readers who will find this book as remarkable as I did. For me it was clearly five stars.