A perfect marriage is nearly destroyed by dangerous infatuations—as Huth (Land Girls, 1996, etc.) details with her customary perceptiveness the frailties and follies of good people.
Grace and William Handle have been married long enough to develop comforting and predictable routines to their lives. Both work at home in their place outside an English town. William, a violinist and member of the prestigious Elmtree Quartet, practices each morning upstairs in his study, while Grace, an artist, paints flowers for a book she’s preparing. Breakfast is a silent, companionable meal, and bedtime a complex ritual as William selects the number of blankets for their bed based on the evening’s weather forecast. The two are in one of those conjugal ruts that tempts fate to intervene, which it soon does here by introducing new acquaintances. When beautiful viola player Bonnie Morse replaces a retiring member of the quartet, William becomes so infatuated that he begins planning Grace’s murder. Grace in her turn is fascinated by neighbor Lucien, a deeply troubled young man who, unlike William, praises her art; in fact, she finds herself fonder of Lucien than of her own adult son. William makes three serious murder attempts—first, trying to poison Grace with peanuts, to which she’s allergic; then throwing her off a cliff; and, last, drowning her in her bath—but he’s thwarted each time. As William becomes more and more obsessed with Bonnie, Grace wants to end Lucien’s daily visits but is increasingly fearful of his uncontrollable anger. The brutal murder of a neighbor, as well as a surprise announcement from Bonnie, painfully but instructively reveal to Grace and William the foolhardiness of their respective obsessions.
A wise, perfectly pitched tale that’s also a page-turner as it subtly warns of the perils that threaten even the most solid of marriages.