Saturday, December 16, 2006


Robbie's Wife
by Russell Hill
Hard Case Crime
258 pages
Due 27 Feb 07

Jack Stone is a sixty year old, divorced Hollywood screen writer trying to stop his life from simply falling apart. He travels to England with the thought of losing himself in some backwater village, away from the confusion that has become his life. Finding solitude, he hopes, will rekindle his passion for writing again and produce something he can sell the movie studios. Stone is a cynical character and he doesn’t have any real hope his exile getaway will produce anything positive. Rather he believes he’ll simply disappear off the face of the globe and no one will give a damn.

Which is exactly what seems to be happening until a wrong turn on a lonely country road brings him to Sheepheaven Farm and Maggie Barlow.

Maggie is an earthy woman, wife and mother, also trapped in a life she abhors. Her husband, Robbie, is a sheep farmer barely making ends meet, which is why they rent out the spare bedroom as a Bed & Breakfast operation. Their ten year old son, Terry, is a precocious lad that Jack takes to immediately. What he doesn’t foresee is how he easily he becomes obsessed with Maggie.

Maggie is a forceful, sexual creature that soon poisons Jack’s every waking second until he is obsessed with her like the tide with the shore. In classic noir fiction, people get sucked into dark deeds almost as if against their will. The passions of the heart overrule the intellect until they are lost in a maze of evil. Jack Stone is a good man who finds himself in love with another man’s wife and will do anything to possess her. He is quickly ensnared in a deadly spider’s web of his own making.

Russell Hill writes deceptively simple first person prose that is froth with psychological complexities. All the while I was reading this book, I kept hoping that Jack would come to his senses and escape his doomed fate. The suspense never lessened until the very last page where the finale is a bitter, honest revelation. This book is a terrific crime thriller destined to become a classic in the genre. They just don’t get any better than this.


Anonymous said...

Finally able to read this. Almost glacial compared to some of HCC's fare, but still a good read. The sections concerning the outbreak of foot and mouth disease and the home were chilling, and could have been a book unto themselves.

As usual, I can hardly wait for HCC's next offering.

Ron Fortier said...

I'm sure you are aware HCC has made a deal with HBO films to make movies of some of their titles. This is one that is just so right for film, I can see the scenes unfolding just as laid out in the their gruesome