In a would-be thriller that’s more gray than noir, a disturbed woman arranges her suicide to frame her husband for murder.
Suzanne’s problems started in childhood. Her father, a hard-drinking religious nut, beat her savagely. After his death, she left home but the fear never left her, though meeting Michael Brace gave her a brief respite. The son of a wealthy lawyer, he seemed like a white knight, and they married. When the story opens in the small town of Fairhope, Ala., they have been married almost 15 years, though they no longer sleep together—two zombies under one roof. Michael is an occasional writer who drinks too much and lives off his inheritance. Suzanne discovers his novel-in-progress about childhood abuse, and this sends her over the edge. She conflates Michael and her father, an absurdity, for her hopelessly passive husband wouldn’t hurt anyone. Suzanne has Michael buy a gun and increase their life insurance. She comes on to his brother Phillip and writes him a love letter (it will be left at the crime scene). She burns her hand and claims spousal abuse, winning the sympathy of her shrink. She makes elaborate plans for a party to celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary. Watching Suzanne scheme is as exciting as watching a housewife check off items on her to-do list. Nor does Michael, who never questions his wife’s program, garner much sympathy. Dummies deserve their fate. After the party, while Michael is sleeping, Suzanne puts his finger on the trigger of a gun. The story’s second half has Michael dealing with the consequences of this wife’s actions. In the courtroom, Hollon’s fifth novel recycles elements from The God File (2002) and A Thin Difference (2003).
Lack of suspense and an unconvincing portrayal of mental illness cripple Hollon’s latest.