Book Review: A Circle of Wives – Alice LaPlante

A Circle of Wives coverTitle: A Circle of Wives
Author: Alice LaPlante
ISBN: 9780802122346
Pages: 325
Release Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Genre: Literary Mystery/Thriller
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5


When a well-respected doctor is found dead in a hotel room, it’s assumed to be of natural causes. That is, until Detective Samantha Adams starts prying into his life. It turns out that Dr. John Taylor had not one, not two, but three wives in different locations, all of whom had a motive to kill him.

Snapshot Review:

Fans of literary thrillers and well-developed characters shouldn’t miss Alice LaPlante’s latest novel. A Circle of Wives is well-plotted, with unexpected twists and turns around every corner.

Full Review:

In her latest literary thriller, Alice LaPlante tackles the sticky subject of polygamy: what happens when a respected community leader is revealed to have a dark side? John’s first wife, Dorothy, knew about his “dalliances” (if you can, indeed, call simultaneous second and third marriages that ), but his latter two wives, M. J. and Helen, didn’t. What’s more, these women are very different from one another. What does it say about John, that he was seeking relationships with such different people? What does it say about Dorothy, M. J., and Helen?

The narrative jumps among the different wives, along with Detective Samantha Adams; it would be enough to boggle the mind in less talented hands. But LaPlante does a great job differentiating the voices of each of these women. Adams sounds nervous and out of her element, working on her first murder case, while Helen sounds like the smart, calm, and collected pediatric oncologist she is. It’s hard to differentiate between voices on the page, much less among four women, yet LaPlante does so effortlessly.

LaPlante keeps the tension at a high level in A Circle of Wives. It’s clear that one of the wives killed John, and it’s hard to really blame them. But who was it, and why? LaPlante delves deep into each psyche in order to produce the answer to this question. This is as much a character study as it is a mystery. Each of these people is crucial to the narrative, with all their flaws and faults. As their darker sides are revealed, the narrative increases its pace, providing entertaining and thoughtful twists and turns. In the end, most readers will be blindsided by the surprising, but believable, reveal of the true murderer.

If you’re looking for a thoughtful literary thriller that delves deep into characters and emotions, Alice LaPlante’s novels are a great choice. She takes care with each of her characters, but never lets development get in the way of a carefully plotted and well-paced story. This is an enjoyable novel whose characters will stay with you long after the last pages are turned.

Other books by Alice LaPlante:

Turn of Mind

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  1. This sounds like a cross between the HBO series “Big Love” and Ariel Lawhon’s recent release “The Wife, The Maid, and The Mistress.”

  2. I chose this book from Vine last week and I can’t wait for it to get here – especially after reading your review!

  3. Barbara Lewis says:

    My daughter had a very well respected transplant surgeon at Stanford University near Palo Alto, CA. When he died very suddenly it came out that he had 3 wives at the same time. If you google Dr. Norman Lewiston you can read about him and how the wives found out about each other after his death. Dr. Lewiston did so much work with children and was widely know for that. The physical description of Dr. Taylor fit Dr. Lewiston to a T! People who knew Dr. Lewiston wondered about his death because it came out that his last wife found out about the others. Many thought suicide. He was a giant teddy bear of a man who was so beloved by the children and their parents. As I read this I thought , I KNOW this doctor! Amazing story!

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