"The Secret Lives of Married Women" Book Review
Written by Elissa Wald
2013, 256 pages, Fiction
Released on October 8th, 2013
I don't enjoy romance. I enjoy crime. When I started reading Elissa Wald's The Secret Lives of Married Women, from Hard Case Crime, I thought it was going to focus too much on what the main characters feel. In a way, the narrative did that. However, it also kept me reading because Wald uses the two narratives that make up the book to explore some dark and twisted elements of sexuality, married life, and human nature.
The Secret Lives of Married Women follows Leda and Lillian, two identical twin sisters who happen to be very different from each other in everything except the way they look. Leda is a regular housewife and mom, but she's also a libertine with a very shady past and a healthy sexual appetite. On the other hand, Lillian is a sexually repressed defense attorney who has never allowed herself any indulgences. In the first half of the narrative, Leda has to deal with a handyman who seems obsessed on working on her new suburban home. When she lets her husband know and the man disappears, imagination and coincidence come together to make her suspect her husband is not really who he appears to be. In the second half of the novel, Lillian deals with a complicated trial that will help her explore a world that had been hidden from her for years and that will lead to a bit of experimentation with her own sexuality. As a bonus, the case she's working on is a mix of corruption, emotions, and sexual tension gone wrong.
Wald's straightforward prose makes this novel a quick read. The dialogue is believable and the characters, while not incredibly nuanced and created to be stereotypes, are at least developed enough to be multidimensional. Also, there's a gritty, sensual, somewhat noir-esque feeling to this narrative. Leda has an erotic movie in her past that comes back to haunt her and Lillian decides to put her career and reputation at risk to investigate the underbelly of infidelity with a side of submission.
Many readers from both sexes often complain about there not being enough crime fiction about women written by women. Well, The Secret Lives of Married Women is about women and by a woman. Great authors can dig deep into their characters and reveal their hidden thoughts. That being said, I think the fact that Wald is a woman gives her a special touch, an infinitely personal knowledge of the female psyche that allowed her to create two gripping stories in which feelings play a crucial role.
Hard Case Crime publishes great crime fiction that usually steers clear of clichés, and this one is no different. If you've ever wondered how perverted suburban ladies in minivans can be, give this one a try.