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Monday 27 August 2018

‘The Other Wife’ by Michael Robotham

Published by Sphere,
10 July 2018.
ISBN: 978-0-7515-6281-1 (HB)

One of the perks, in fact I'd go as far as privileges, of book reviewing is the opportunity to discover 'new' authors. The quote marks are because sometimes they're not new at all; they've been around for years but have somehow passed me by.

So, it is with Michael Robotham. I knew the name, hadn't come across the books, and that was definitely my loss, especially since in an author's note in The Other Wife he hints strongly that this may be the last of an eight-book series. I really hope it isn't; it would be a great waste of one of the most complex and riveting character sets I've encountered in a long time.

Joe O'Loughlin is a clinical psychologist, recently widowed so a single parent to a twelve-year-old and a university student, and part of an extended family with so many secrets and lies in its past (and its present, as it turns out) that the skeletons need a whole suite of cupboards. He also has Parkinson's disease, which has a habit of making itself felt at inconvenient moments.

At the start of The Other Wife, Joe is called to his father's intensive care bedside. His father has been attacked and left with catastrophic brain damage, unlikely ever to regain full consciousness. He also bears signs of a previous beating, but the police don't want to know. Joe isn't his first visitor; and a woman is sitting there who claims to be his father's wife. His other wife. And that's only the start. A couple of days later Joe arrives home to find his daughters being held at knifepoint by a severely disturbed young man.

Layer upon layer of enigmas and deceits are slowly peeled open, until Joe begins to wonder if his whole life has been built on lies. And as he delves with only sporadic success into his father's life, his own family keeps threatening to implode. His housekeeper goes on extended leave, and his younger daughter is not dealing well with her mother's death and the staff at her school aren't being helpful.

This is a novel full of riches: a protagonist who made me ache for him, and plenty of other flawed characters with depth and layers; settings which spring to life; a plot so tangled and fertile that there's a new surprise on almost every page. It's one of those books that you don't want to end, but it still makes you race to the finish, desperate to know exactly what has been going on all those years.

My heart dropped into my boots when I found that this could be the last in the series; but it lifted again when I realized I could start at the beginning. If, unlike me, you've already discovered Michael Robotham and Joe O'Loughlin, you'll snatch this book off the shelves. If, like me, you haven't, I strongly urge you to go and look for the whole series, as I shall.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Michael Robotham was born 9 November 1960 in Casino, NSW, and went to school in Gundagai and Coffs Harbour. In February 1979 he began a journalism cadetship on The Sun, an afternoon newspaper in Sydney. In 1986, Michael went to London where he worked as a reporter and sub-editor for various UK national newspapers before becoming a staff feature writer on The Mail on Sunday in 1989. He rose to become deputy features editor before resigning in May 1993. He went on to become a ghostwriter, collaborating on fifteen "autobiographies" for people in the arts, politics, the military and sport. Twelve of these titles became Sunday Times bestsellers. In 1996 he returned to Australia with his family and continued writing full-time. In 2002, a partial manuscript of his first novel The Suspect, became the subject of a bidding war at the London Book Fair. It was later translated into 22 languages and sold over a million copies around the world.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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