The Perfect Marriage
reviewed by Barbara Saffer
Sarah and Adam Morgan are very much in love, but their decade-long marriage is experiencing a bit of strife. Sarah is doing well as a top defense attorney in Washington DC, but Adam—who was once a best-selling author—hasn’t finished a novel in years. To spur his career, Adam convinced Sarah to buy a vacation home in Virginia, where he could write in a quiet atmosphere. Adam goes to Virginia for three or four days at a time, while Sarah usually remains in Washington to work.
Sarah and Adam’s tenth anniversary is in a couple of days, and the couple plans to celebrate the occasion in their Virginia residence. Adam goes on ahead, but Sarah is held up by a trial and can’t make it. So Adam spends a lusty night in the Virginia abode with beautiful Kelly Summers, a married woman he’s been seeing for 18 months. Adam returns to Washington the next morning, while Kelly is still asleep in his bed.
A few hours after Adam returns home, while Sarah is at work, Virginia sheriffs come knocking on the door. They say the housekeeper found Kelly Summers stabbed to death in the Morgans’ Virginia house. Adam is a prime suspect, and he’s promptly hauled off to Virginia, where he’s questioned and arrested for murder.
When Sarah learns of Adam’s predicament—and his long-term affair—she’s hurt, shocked, and angry. Nevertheless, Sarah believes she’s the only lawyer good enough to get Adam acquitted, so she takes on his defense. Adam insists on a speedy trial, and the proceedings are set to begin in two weeks, with the death penalty attached. (The quickie police investigation and accelerated judicial proceedings stretch credulity to the breaking point, but I’m willing to grant author’s license.)
As part of her trial preparation Sarah searches for other suspects, to raise reasonable doubt with the jury. Moreover, Adam—who’s granted bail and confined to his Virginia home with an ankle bracelet—launches an investigation of his own. The book alternates back and forth between Sarah and Adam’s point of view, so we see what each of them thinks and does.
As the story unfolds, Kelly’s dubious past is revealed, and the secrets of other characters are exposed as well. The tension builds as one possible killer after another comes to light, and my suspicions leapt from person to person.
The book has a rich array of secondary characters, including the Virginia sheriff who investigates Kelly’s murder, and seems unsure of Adam’s guilt; Kelly’s cop husband, who’s jealous and has a terrible temper; Adam’s over-protective mother, who blames Sarah for her son’s troubles; Sarah’s sarcastic friend Matthew, who insults people with clever quips; Sarah’s law partner Bob, who’s envious of Sarah’s success; the district attorney, who’s good at his job; an aggressive reporter, who wants to interview Adam; Adam’s greedy agent, who asks his client to write a tell-all; and more.
If you like suspenseful thrillers filled with surprises, this is the book for you.