The Pocket Wife is a new novel by Susan Crawford. It is a story that mystifies while it entertains. The heroine of the story is a woman who is bipolar, and this disorder affects her memory as well as her ability to distinguish what is real and what is not. When you add this condition to a murder in her neighborhood you have a most exciting situation as well as a muddled one.
Dana Catrell is a woman with a problem that can be controlled by medication and counseling, but sometimes life gets in the way of her treatment. When this happens Dana begins to slip back into the blurred lines of her life. This is the state she is in on the day she arrives home and is desperately summoned across the street to her neighbor's home. Celia wants to tell her something or at least show her something.
What Celia wants to show her is a compromising picture of Dana's husband Peter with a woman Celia alleges is Peter's mistress. And that is not all Celia wants to share. She also implies she herself might have been involved with Peter. This is enough to drive Dana into a hazy retreat and a safe place of lost memory.
This complicates things when she learns Celia has been murdered. More complications arise when Dana learns she was the last person to see Celia alive - except for the murderer, who might be Dana. She just can't remember the details of her afternoon with Celia after she learned of all the betrayals.
This is a pretty intense situation for anyone to find herself in, and the stakes of the game are high. Dana is determined to find out who murdered Celia even if the trail leads to her own doorstep. While doing this she also has to fight the demons and shadows that are overcoming her.
Susan Crawford manages to give her readers a front row seat to all of this mystery and mayhem. She is also able to deal with Dana's ever changing personality, one that fascinates readers while also aggravating them. Many will wonder why she didn't just take some medication and/or go see her counselor and get things back on the right road. Of course that would be too simple and would sap the story of some of its most intense drama.
Aside from Dana's story, Crawford also invites us into the lives of Jack Moss, the detective assigned to Celia's murder; his son Kyle, who may or may not be a suspect; and Lenora White, the attorney who is pressing Moss to make an arrest. Each of these side stories overwhelm the basic plot and fragment the attention Dana has drawn. It it too much of a good thing for as interesting as these stories are, they detract from Dana's story which is of paramount interest to the reader.
Crawford is a writer of talent and on the whole this book is successful. It is just too much of a good thing. If there had been a more straightforward telling of the murder and its solution the enjoyment of the story would have been intensified. Fleshing out so many other characters drew attention away from the main course of this literary feast.
I will be interested in seeing what Crawford comes up with next. Her abilities are such that it is bound to be interesting.
The Pocket Wife is published by William Morrow. It contains 320 pages and sells for $25.99.