An unscrupulous husband’s murder produces many suspects in Murphy’s absorbing debut, a faint nod to Agatha Christie.
When lawyer Oliver Lane is shot to death at the family’s summer rental on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, his wife appears a likely suspect. Then two other women who claim to be married to Oliver come forward, and the investigation takes several unusual turns. As Detective Kyle Kennedy travels to each spouse’s home in separate parts of the state, he notes that the wives sport similar coifs and uniformly deny prior knowledge of the others’ existence. Aside from their haircuts, the women are resolutely different: First wife Diana is artistic, beautiful and gracious, the quintessential Southern lady; Jewels, an architect and the second wife, is athletic, angular and brusque; and cerebral bookstore manager Bert, the third wife, is nurturing and spiritual. Told from multiple points of view—but most interestingly from the perspective of Picasso, Oliver’s precocious, dictionary-reading 12 year-old daughter with Diana—Murphy examines the periods before and after the murder while providing tantalizing glimpses into the minds of a manipulative sociopath and his targets. Picasso knows more than she admits and tries to make sense of events and her emotions while worrying about the future. During the course of the investigation, she evolves from a socially ostracized wallflower into a pretty and popular schemer. Kyle falls in love with one of the wives, and though he suspects she's involved in the murder, he feels compelled to seek the truth. The women recognize that their survival depends on maintaining their secrets and protecting each other, at least for a time. Although the author’s decision to insert an additional perspective into the narrative toward the end results in a slightly awkward disruption, her fluent style and descriptive language produce a very readable story with well-articulated characters.
A thoughtfully written, original and entertaining exploration of events ignited by love and lies.