The Knife Thrower's Wife by Sheila McGraw

The Knife Thrower's Wife

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Sleepwalker Cassie Green, lately painting violent dreamscapes featuring her husband, becomes suspect in his death in this debut thriller/mystery.

Waking up in her suburban Houston-area bedroom, Cassie Green looks up at walls dripping with bats. She then remembers that she “hallucinated those molten bats” ever since confronting husband Austin over “screwing his bimbo coworker.”  She then flashes back to two months earlier, before she consciously knew about her husband’s affair. She began having dreams of Austin as a knife thrower, aiming to injure her, and then, eventually, of her stabbing him. She is rattled by these dreams, from which she awakens in different spots around her house, since they remind her of childhood sleepwalking episodes, one possibly connected to the killing of a neighborhood dog. Yet Cassie, depressed by her husband’s frequent absences and her jobless live-in adult twins’ sloth, is also inspired to paint her experiences, encouraged by best friend Trix, a single, glamorous downtown artist who dislikes Austin. When Austin turns up stabbed to death soon after discovery of the affair, Cassie’s dramatic paintings become a catalyst for putting her on trial for murder. By novel’s end, many pay the consequences. Houston-based McGraw, an illustrator and author of children’s picture books (Love You Forever, 2012, etc.), has written a nifty adult debut that magnificently leverages her artist’s eye. Cassie’s dreams, tableaux featuring a garden snake, clown, dead mother, and more, aren’t only striking (often literally) stand-alone scenes, but also serve as surreal blueprints into this heroine’s mind. Some parts of this novel, narrated by Cassie, run on a bit long, particularly in recounting Austin’s bad and neglectful behavior. Overall, however, this is a rollicking, colorful adventure, complete with a shocking and fitting ending.

A vivid, twisting tale of midlife awakening.

Page count: 452pp
Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2016


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