Following up on her 1987 novel Sleeping with the Enemy (made into a star vehicle for Julia Roberts), Price returns with a terrific suspenser with a softly ironic fade-out--and a lust for mainstream status. Price, telling us only what her characters do, not what they feel, has the right ingredients for a suspense classic but decides from the start to play for different stakes than the reader expects. The first third is a compassionate, deeply gripping story about Mary Eliot, a wallflower mother of four who has no college degree and is married to insane novelist/college teacher Randal Eliot. Randal has been hospitalized seven times, often having dictated a novel to his wife just before his breakdowns. She types them up while he's away--and he's now worthy of a Pulitzer. Truth is, to keep the family together and Randal employed by his Nebraska university, Mary writes the novels all on her own, from scratch. Randal is far too scattered to write even one legible word. He's also a monster, aglow with his literary success but absolutely insecure about his ``talent.'' During a trip abroad, Randal has another breakdown, pins a paper flower to the back of his hand, and is again hospitalized by Mary, who sits down in a London apartment to write his new novel. Price, who cannibalizes her own works for Mary's oeuvre, is at her most impressive here, as when Mary rents a typewriter: ``The rental shop was small and dusty. Mary waited her turn patiently and watched wreckers demolish a building across the street. Old rooms with their pastel plasterwork of flowers and fruit stood naked above traffic, like underwear or intimate conversations violently exposed to strangers.'' When Randal dies (or commits suicide), Mary marries his prospective biographer, a much too two-dimensionally violent literary fanatic. The first half is pure gold. Don't even wait for the movie.