Friday Book Whimsy: The English Wife

Everything seemed a bit more scandalous in the 19th century, and The English Wife, by Laura Willig, tells a great story that takes place in the 19th century, rich in interesting characters and a lot of unexpected twists and turns served alongside the scandal.

The novel opens as the rich New York City aristocrat Bayard Van Duyvil and his English wife Annabelle are found murdered in the garden outside their home the night of their Twelfth Night party. They are discovered by his sister and his cousin, who hear his last word: George. The crime is initially considered a murder/suicide. However, Annabelle’s body was nowhere to be found. Still, the rumors of her having an affair with the architect who is building their fancy new home continue to feed the flames of speculation.

Bay’s sister Janie is certain her brother would not have killed his wife, and she also doesn’t believe that Annabelle would have had an affair, and sets out to solve the mystery. Assisting her is a journalist who is interested in solving the murder to have the scoop of the century.

Via flashbacks, we learn that Annabelle met Bayard in London where she was working as a burlesque dancer. After a brief courtship, she and Bayard move back to New York City where they live a perfect life.

Or is it? As Janie begins to investigate, she learns more than she ever imagined about her brother, his wife, and she and Bayard’s mother, a woman who thinks so much of herself that she looks down her nose at the Vanderbilts!

Willig dishes out the twists and turns with subtlety and imagination. There were times when I would read something and have to stop to think, “Did I know that?” Little by little, the mystery is solved and I found the ending to be quite unpredictable and satisfying.

I enjoyed this story very much.

Here is a link to the book.