A CIRCLE OF WIVES by Alice LaPlante

Book Quote:

“It’s not every day that you attend the funeral of your husband as organized by his other wife. Or, rather, the funeral of the man you’ve been calling husband for six months. Who was John Taylor? I no longer have a clue.”

Book Review:

Review by Eleanor Bukowsky  (MAR 4, 2014)

John Taylor does not fit the stereotype of a polygamist. Although he is handsome, charming, and charismatic, he is not selfish and arrogant, nor does he seem obviously abnormal or deviant. On the contrary, Taylor is a doctor who uses his impressive skills to perform reconstructive surgery on children who have facial deformities. His partners are unhappy that Taylor insists on doing pro bono work, since the big money is in cosmetic procedures for the affluent. Still, Taylor is a complex individual who, for reasons of his own, married three women who live in Palo Alto, Los Gatos, and Los Angeles; he somehow managed to juggle his myriad professional and personal responsibilities. It is only after Taylor dies in his hotel room of an apparent heart attack that his trio of wives become fodder for the tabloids.

Twenty-eight year old Samantha Adams is a detective in the Palo Alto Police Department in California. She has been living for ten years with her boyfriend, Peter, an anthropologist whom she dubs “an academic wannabe.” Sam is ambivalent about her feelings for Peter, a fact that is driving a wedge between them. When she is assigned to the John Taylor case, Sam has little time to devote to Peter, since there is evidence that the doctor may have been murdered. Did one of his wives do him in? If so, which one?

In lesser hands,  A Circle of Wives might have been little more than a cliché-ridden mystery with sensational overtones. Fortunately, Alice LaPlante is a talented and intelligent author who creates spellbinding and well-rounded characters; writes witty and realistic dialogue; and constructs plots that are clever and surprising. In addition, her prose is straightforward and effortless; it is refreshing to read a novel devoid of heavy-handed similes and metaphors. LaPlante gives voice to the aforementioned Sam Adams (who is eager to prove that she can solve her first major murder case) as well as the three Taylor wives, Dorothy (a poised and elegant woman to whom John was married for 34 years); MJ Taylor, an accountant (John’s wife for six years); and Helen Richter, a pediatric oncologist who was married to John for six months.

Among the memorable scenes in this book is the funeral mass for Dr. Taylor. All three wives are present, each lost in thought, remembering the man they loved. Dorothy, MJ, and Helen could not be more different from one another, but they all cared deeply for John, and each provided him with something special that he needed. Alas, A Circle of Wives is marred by an over-the-top ending with too many twists and turns. Still, most readers will enjoy this generally well-crafted and entertaining page-turner that proves once again how little we know about the people who are closest to us.

AMAZON READER RATING: from 90 readers
PUBLISHER: Atlantic Monthly Press (March 4, 2014)
REVIEWER: Eleanor Bukowsky
EXTRAS: Excerpt
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March 4, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Family Matters, Mystery/Suspense

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