Saturday, January 15, 2011

'Husbands and Lies' lies down without much fight

McPhee, Susy. Husbands and Lies. [Reading?]: Ebury, 2009.

McPhee's novel has a promising beginning: protagonist Fran visits her cancer-stricken friend Alison in the hospital, and promises to help Alison find a new wife for Alison's soon-to-be-widowed husband Adam. The problem arises when Fran, researching the world of online dating, stumbles across a photo that is unmistakably her husband Max--and determines to catch him in his deception. Over the ensuing pages, Fran, Alison, Adam, Max, and Fran's colleague Greg find themselves in an ever-complicating tangled web of deceit and confusion. By halfway through the book it is obvious to the reader (if not to Fran) that Fran has made several mistakes and incorrect assumptions, and the ending comes as little surprise. This book lies halfway between a novel of mystery and intrigue and halfway between a comedy of manners (if not errors), and perhaps its greatest flaw is its inability to choose between these two genres. Pitched towards either extreme, it could have been a rollicking success, but perched on the nebulous fence of womens' generic literature, it makes only a mild impression.

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