The Silent Wife, by A. S. A. Harrison
Reviewed by Laurie Schut
I read The Silent Wife in two days. It is an unusual murder mystery in that the reader knows the identity of the murderer from the beginning. Jodi and Todd are at a bad point in their marriage. The tension builds until you as the reader want to scoop her up and take her safely away. But Jodi is a "survivor" with her own dirty history, which doesn't become evident until near the end of the novel. The solution for her is so obvious that she cannot fail to take it; she hires a killer to "take out" her husband, thereby ensuring that she keeps her condo and defeats her much younger rival. She faces down the cops, the lawyers and the "other woman" and appears victorious.
Jodi's thinking undergoes changes so subtle that the reader is carried along effortlessly. She begins as the dutiful wife and ends as the vengeful one. Todd is by turns awful, inconsiderate, lying, cheating and sly. The only thing that seems surprising in this is that she ever married him in the first place. And as it turns out she didn't. And, as it also turns out, Illinois gives nothing to a common law spouse in a divorce. Jodi lived with and supported Todd for 20 years, and in the end she was served with an eviction notice. This novel is very much an indictment of the legal system.
Harrison is a cool writer, taking a plot that could have been straightforward and delivering from it both Todd and Jodi's point-of-view. Jodi's story builds through her very silence, her inability to act or speak. She avoids, manages and holds on. Todd's story builds through his inability to be honest. They are both caught in a dishonest situation which plays out in a sickening fashion. The end, when it comes, is almost a relief.
What I liked were the little details of affluent life in Chicago in the new millennium. The way that Jodi structures her days to avoid the realities of the situation; her trips to the spa and stores that serve to shut out the fact that Todd is with his mistress. She lives in a parallel world to him and apparently likes it that way. The big explosion in the in the novel comes from her therapy, which reveals a part of her character that is hard to like.