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The Caretaker's Wife


The Caretaker's Wife

THE CARETAKER’S WIFE by Vincent Zandri took me back in all the best ways to my early reading days when I discovered adult crime fiction. Those were the paperback books that sat in rotating spinning display racks at the supermarkets and drugstores. The covers were lurid, and the inside contents were even more so. Zandri, a veteran wordsmith who executes quality and quantity at superlative levels, seems to channel those books in his latest effort, but in a rough and whiskey-soaked voice that is entirely and uniquely his own.

Jonathan Kingsley is the first-person narrator of THE CARETAKER’S WIFE, a novelist who, when we first meet him, is fresh out of prison after serving time for beating his wife’s lover within an inch of his life --- which cost him his marriage and his daughter. It is somewhat ironic that his first action as a newly free ex-convict is to return to The Loon Lake Inn, a vacation spot that he and his family had seen briefly a few years ago before his life was forever changed. Kingsley’s plan is to rent a cabin there and get his writing mojo going again.

"[Zandri] does not mince words when describing sex or violence, and there is plenty of both to be had here."

That idea is derailed when he meets Sonny and Cora, the husband and wife proprietors of the newly reconstituted inn. Kingsley is almost immediately attracted to Cora, who is fetching and flirtatious. It’s a dangerous and risky combination for a man just out of prison to encounter, and the two waste little time getting together, almost right under the nose of Sonny, a former defense attorney who is also a member of a New York crime family. Cora wants to be rid of Sonny, and Kingsley, for whom love at first sight is a reality, is more than willing to do whatever it might take to make Cora his own.

However, there is quite a bit more going on at Loon Lake than Kingsley’s willingness to commit homicide. Sonny has his sights set on a lot more than transforming a humble inn to whatever former grandeur it had, and his real plans, as well as those of his family, have tentacles that extend into state law enforcement. What Kingsley does or does not do will have effects that ripple outward in ways that he could not expect. By the time the book is concluded, Kingsley may wish that he had stayed in his cabin, typing away at a new novel. Of course, what fun is there in that? THE CARETAKER’S WIFE answers that question, and a few more as well.

This novel begs thematic comparison with the work of James M. Cain and the film Body Heat, but Zandri is aiming much higher than simply creating a homage to the bygone days. He does not mince words when describing sex or violence, and there is plenty of both to be had here. Readers with sensitivities of a certain type might be best advised to look elsewhere for entertainment, but for those of us who like our reading material real and unbridled, THE CARETAKER’S WIFE is exactly what we have been looking for.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on May 31, 2019

The Caretaker's Wife
by Vincent Zandri

  • Publication Date: May 28, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Polis Books
  • ISBN-10: 1947993445
  • ISBN-13: 9781947993440