Mystery of the Month – The Other Wife

Clinical psychologist Joe O’Loughlin is back in The Other Wife – the ninth and possibly final instalment of award-winning author Michael Robotham’s series of crime fiction novels set in London.

Joe’s father, distinguished surgeon William O’Loughlin, is in a medically induced coma after being brutally beaten. Joe arrives at the hospital, expecting to see his mother, Mary, and William’s wife of 60 years. However, he finds a strange woman by his father’s beside, claiming to be William’s other wife. Joe thinks the woman, Olivia Blackmore, is lying, but soon learns she’s been living with his father in London for 19 years. Even more shocking is that Mary and several of William’s friends knew about Olivia.

When Joe discovers mysterious bruises on his father’s body, he realises someone deliberately tried to hurt him. He embarks on an investigation with the help of retired detective and good friend (and big fan of boiled sweets), Vincent Ruiz – everyone’s favourite character, who gets all the good lines.

There’s a solid cast of questionable suspects- Olivia’s troubled son Ewan, drug addict Micah Beauchamp and former soldier Ray D’Marco, who has a reason for wanting William both alive and dead. And can Joe really believe Olivia? She has a complicated history – a tennis star married to her much older coach who was suspiciously killed in a car accident. Could she be a black widow? And what’s the link with William’s best friend, retired solicitor Kenneth Passage, his wife Rosie, and their son, David?

Meanwhile, Joe has a lot going on his personal life. He’s been battling Parkinson’s Disease for thirteen years, his 12-year old daughter, Emma is still dealing with her grief following the death of her mother (Joe’s wife, Julianne), and his relationship with DS Kate Hawthorn might be more than professional.

While the mystery is top notch, it’s the characters who really make the story. Joe had a complicated relationship with his father – remembering a distant and disinterested man whom he always tried to impress, and he struggles to reconcile that image with this man who is a bigamist, and who may have been involved in fraud and medical malpractice. A scene in a graveyard between Joe and Emma is also beautifully written and memorable. Robotham has an in-depth understanding of his characters and their motivations, drawing on his own personal experiences.

There’s plenty of action – poor old Joe gets beaten about a fair bit, both physically and emotionally, his daughters get held at knifepoint, and more than one person gets killed. The mystery is cleverly plotted, with lots of twist and turns, making it a fun challenge for even the sharpest crime fiction fan to guess what’s really going on.

Whether you’ve followed Joe’s journey from the first novel (2004’s The Suspect), or if you’ve just picked up The Other Wife, it doesn’t really matter – Robotham is an absolute professional at crime fiction writing and this is a highly intelligent and entertaining novel. And if this does happen to be the last story for Joe, I hope you will enjoy the ending as much as I did. (It made me smile.)

The Other Wife is published by Hachette Australia.

Standout Simile: –

It’s a reasonable request, yet I feel like a kid whose party balloon has blown out of my hand and is drifting over the rooftops, never to be seen again.

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