Sunday, September 3, 2017

Book Review: 'The Widower's Wife' by Cate Holahan

Ana Bacon and her husband, Tom, are in way over their heads. The couple was sitting pretty in their gorgeous home until, after making a disastrous trade that cost his bank a fortune, Tom lost his lucrative job on Wall Street. Ana gets a position as an administrative assistant, but her salary is a drop in the bucket compared to the huge infusion of cash that the couple needs. Even after cutting back on expenses, they have maxed out their credit cards and cannot pay their bills. Unless they declare bankruptcy and start over, there is no obvious solution. Or is there? Tom has a sudden brainstorm. It involves taking out a sizeable term life insurance policy that would pay out a tidy sum upon either Tom or Ana's death. The primary beneficiary would be their three-year-old daughter, Sophia.

Tom and Ana put together enough cash to take a cruise ship to the Bahamas, and a security camera captures Ana falling overboard. Although the authorities never recover Ana's body, Tom pressures the insurance company for the multi-million dollar payout. The only person standing between him and a fresh start is Ryan Monahan, a divorced and lonely ex-cop with a bad leg. Monahan is an insurance investigator, and he has no intention of making Tom a rich man without a thorough inquiry. Ryan gets a bad vibe from Tom, a good-looking but shifty fellow who treats his daughter like a pesky object.

Cate Holahan's "The Widower's Wife" is a sordid but entertaining and fast-paced novel that keeps us guessing. The author goes back and forth in time, giving Ana the opportunity to tell her story in the first person. Eventually past and present explosively converge. Although Ana is a sympathetic character who adores her child, she is unbelievably naïve and Tom's character lacks shading. Ryan, on the other hand, is a decent fellow whom we root for, and when he brings in his former partner from the NYPD to assist him, the stakes are raised considerably. It is too bad that the plot becomes increasingly tangled and far-fetched in its final chapters. Those willing to suspend their disbelief, however, will overlook the book's lapses in logic in their eagerness to learn how this dark and gripping tale concludes.

Editor's note: This review was written by Eleanor Bukowsky and has been reposted with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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