Friday, December 6, 2013


THE SECRET LIVES OF MARRIED WOMEN by Elissa Wald was recently published by Hard Case Crime, one of my favorite publishers. It's clearly meant to cash in on the FIFTY SHADES OF GREY bandwagon. FIFTY SHADES, the mega-bestseller S&M trilogy by E.L. James dominated the book selling charts in 2012 and spawned many imitations. I haven't read FIFTY SHADES (and have no desire to do so) but I suspect that SECRET LIVES is the better crafted work.

It barely qualifies as a crime novel however. There is a murder and an unrelated criminal trial but the story is really a psychological study of twin sisters and their "secret lives". The book is divided into two story lines. In the first, Leda, a married mother, is stalked by a construction worker from the work site next door. He recognizes her as having starred in a soft core S&M porn film from years earlier, a fact that Leda's husband, Russian immigrant Stas, is unaware of. When push comes to shove Leda reveals everything to Stas who says he'll take care of the situation. The worker, Jack, disappears which leads to a police investigation that causes Leda to suspect her husband may be a killer.

The second story focuses on Lillian, Leda's sister, who is a successful defense lawyer in New York City. Her latest client is a blind man accused of municipal fraud and corruption. His assistant, Nan, is a young lady with a checkered past having served in a convent before becoming a professional submissive at an S&M club. Lillian's husband, Darren, has a copy of Leda's porn film which causes Lillian to explore her own need to be in a sexually submissive relationship.

THE SECRET LIVES OF MARRIED WOMEN is more of a well-crafted character study of these two women and how their secrets intersect and change their respective lives and relationships with their husbands. There's one graphic sex scene near the end of the book but everything else is handled in a tasteful, matter-of-fact style. It's not a thriller by any stretch but it's an interesting read. If you have any curiosity about S&M skip FIFTY SHADES and read THE SECRET LIVES OF MARRIED WOMEN.

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