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Novel of the week: A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
This &ldquo;rousing historical potboiler&rdquo; proves as &ldquo;surprising, and suspenseful, as any beach read,&rdquo; said Clea Simon in<em> The Boston Globe.</em>

(Algonquin, $24.95)

Robert Goolrick “has managed a minor miracle” with this novel set in 1907 Wisconsin, said Clea Simon in The Boston Globe. When wealthy widower Ralph Truitt meets his young mail-order bride, Catherine, at a train platform in the opening pages, Goolrick’s “precise, literary prose” begins a careful excavation of both characters’ tortured souls. But the author also alerts us to cloaked weapons and hidden agendas, setting up a “rousing historical potboiler” that proves as “surprising, and suspenseful, as any beach read.”

Goolrick’s clipped prose can sound overheated and plain silly out of context, said Ron Charles in The Washington Post. Once you’ve adapted to the novel’s claustrophobic atmosphere of pained yearning, though, the effect is “intoxicating.” The characters aren’t playing straight with each other, and Goolrick isn’t playing straight with us. “The floor collapses in almost every chapter.” Before the mood turns suddenly soft in the final pages, brace yourself for “a spectacularly orchestrated crescendo of violation and violence.” It may remind you of Edgar Allan Poe.

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