By Cynthia Ayala
George Clare is an art teacher, but is he a murderer? After coming home one late winter evening to find his wife dead and his three-year-old daughter alone in the house, George is the immediate suspect, but did do it? A whodunit that evolves and studies the characters and their marriage through multiple narratives and their own to show everything that led up to her death.
This is more than a simple whodunit sort of novel, it’s more about figuring out these characters and who they are and throughout there are so many people that could be suspect’s that aren’t. However, there is danger around all of them, and that danger is George, and what lends to that to make this such a mesmerizing novel is the construction of it.
The book begins with the event, the catalyst for the rest of the story in this country town. It’s small enough so that everyone knows everyone else’s business, but large enough to encourage tourism and the like. So the murder, George is a believable character that the reader feels sorry for him but in the subtle in what he says and how he acts makes him a very suspicious character. There lies the appeal because while the suspicion on him continues to build the reader is still left wondering, “Did he do it?” Depending on the reader, there is no clear resolution because while the suspects go from numerous to just him, George may be violent and manipulative but believing he is a genuinely cold-blooded character remains difficult. Clearly, there is something wrong with him but Brundage leaves it to the reader, she gives readers this novel that is filled with so much and encourages the reader to think about it and just becomes intrigued by him.
George is a very complex character and so well designed for the reader. He’s relatable, but he is also incredibly vicious and self-centered. George thinks about himself while remaining a decent father. He’s charming, and that’s the danger. On his wife’s part, she’s very much the abused woman, but it’s not physical, it’s emotional, which is just as dangerous. She has nothing, and she’s a very passive about it, that’s where some struggle comes in on the part of the reader. She’s not a very captivating character, she’s more captivating when readers see her pain through the eyes of another narrative, other than that, she comes off as very dense, very static. George develops into a better a-hole, but she doesn’t, and that is where readers may not have much sympathy for her. She hates her marriage, the house, and only likes her friends, but she doesn’t open up to anyone her age. The only person she somewhat confides is an 18-year-old boy, which is odd and borders on romantic making her less relatable. Trapped women in abusive marriages or relationship have so much pain in them that this book didn’t capture it and didn’t capitalize on it to raise some awareness about it. This is where Brundage does a tremendous disservice to her readers. Readers should pity her, and her static persona doesn’t allow for that.
That is the biggest fault here because otherwise it is such a mesmerizing novel to read, it is captivating and focuses a lot on this couple, viewing them on the outside and the inside to give a deep into this dangerous relationship. (★★★★☆ | A-)