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'The Wife' book review: Alafair Burke weaves plausible domestic thriller

Associated Press

‘The Wife” (Harper) by Alafair Burke

The issue of sexual harassment and assault — the staple of many a news feed this year — gets a new spin in Alafair Burke’s gripping standalone novel “The Wife.” With a fine eye for believable characters and what motivates people, Burke sculpts a solid domestic thriller as fresh as it is timely.

Angela Powell is “The Wife,” living a pampered, predictable life, married to the highly respected economics professor and best-selling author, Jason, and the mother of 13-year-old Spencer. Her life revolves around carefully planned routines and household rules. A methodical life gives Angela a sense of control and peace that she needs. When she was a teenager, she was held captive for several years until she and her year-old baby were rescued. Angela has kept that past a secret from most, fearful that she would be fodder for media scrutiny, her life and marriage dissected.

Then Jason is accused by intern Rachel Sutton of sexual harassment. Jason’s account of what really happened between him and Rachel seems more than plausible. But soon after, a second woman and business associate, Kerry Lynch, claims he raped her. Insightful NYPD Det. Corrine Duncan’s investigation takes a new turn when Kerry vanishes.

Angela is left wondering just how well she knows her husband, who has seemingly been unflagging to her needs and her privacy, and considers her son his child. Jason’s public persona also has been blemish-free and his book on socially conscious investing has made him a “cultural and political icon.”

Burke creates an extremely real domestic thriller while keeping the reader off-kilter regarding the characters’ reliability and motives. Is Angela a reliable narrator or are her views tainted by her own experiences? She worries about Jason but also about her own life and losing her shroud of privacy. “…how long would it be before people who thought they knew something about me jumped into the fray?” she worries.

Burke, a former prosecutor, also enhances the brisk plot of “The Wife” with solid details about police procedures and legal maneuverings.“The Wife” is a solid marriage of plot and characters.

Meet the author

Alafair Burke will discuss “The Wife” at 7 p.m. Feb. 7 at Murder on the Beach, 273 Pineapple Grove Way, Delray Beach, 561-279-7790,

February book events: Writers Live, Jewish Book Fair and more »

Oline H. Cogdill can be reached at

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