The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford
Published by Faber & Faber
30th July 2015
Dana Catrell wakes from a drunken stupor in time to see an ambulance pull into her neighbour's house a few doors down. Celia Steinhauser has been murdered. But Dana was at her house only a few hours ago. Celia wanted to show her a photo - a photo of Dana's husband with another woman - and Dana has blank spots about what happened to the rest of the afternoon . . .
This is a thriller that makes the reader question everything. Dana, we learn, has a history of mental illness and as she descends into another manic episode, the line between what actually happened and what she has imagined becomes blurred.
Oddly enough I've not seen any publicity about this book's release at all, so when I saw it glaring down at me from the book shelf in the shop I was intrigued to find out more. It's so easy to put a book into a similar vein as another, but I guess in some ways this is like the female narrated thrillers of today, the Gone Girl, Before I go to Sleep novels that have been hitting the shelves over the past few years. Having read it, I actually think The Pocket Wife would make a great film as it's a very visual novel and one that I could imagine watching at the cinema.
Dana wakes up to hear sirens near by. Glancing out of the window she sees her neighbour's husband anxiously waiting on the street outside. Still fuzzy from her afternoon of drinking, she rushes over to discover that Celia has been murdered in her house, hit over the head with a vase and left to die there. Dana cannot remember much of the afternoon's events, except that Celia called her to come over as she had something to show her: a photo of Dana's husband and another woman. She knows that they had an argument but the rest of the afternoon has been blacked out of her memory.
This is a novel with an unreliable author, Dana suffers from being bi-polar and isn't always taking her medication, therefore can we, or any of the other characters in the book, believe what she tells us. There are many other characters in the book who aren't entirely whom they seem on the surface. Celia's husband is caught rifling through Dana's bag in the supermarket, Dana's husband Peter clearly has something to hide if the photo Celia had on her phone is anything to go by, and Detective Jack Moss, who like most detectives has his own messed-up life to deal with, discovers his estranged son also knew the victim.
So who did kill Celia Steinhauser? With a cast of suspicious characters this large, it's not easy to pinpoint who it might be. The ending might not have been as sharp as I'd have liked, but then I've been saying that of many of the thrillers I've read recently. The Pocket Wife is worth a read though.