THE POCKET WIFE by Susan Crawford

pocket wife

Courtesy of William Morrow

I have reviewed a few suspenseful books here on Skyline Book Reviews, but they have all ended up being very different.  There was Crooked River about two young girls whose father is accused of murder.  Also, Big Little Lies about a death at a elementary school fundraiser in Australia.  And Tina Seskis’ One Step Too Far told the story of Emily who leaves her old life behind only to be propelled back into it after a tragic death.  Susan Crawford’s cerebral debut, The Pocket Wife, involves a murder in a suburb of Paterson, NJ and is no exception.




The siren is inside her ears, inside the car.  It screams and pries inside her brain.  She opens the car door and steps outside. She’s forgotten her shoes, but she can’t feel the pavement.  She’s so light her feet are barely touching down.  She looks out at the cars toward the Hudson, and it shimmers, it hums, it sings, eclipsing the sound of the siren with its lovely, lilting song.


5 Reasons to Read:

  1. Crawford’s main character, Dana Catrall, is captivating during her descent into a mental breakdown in the wake of the violent death of her neighbor.
  2. The detective investigating the murder, Jack Moss, is not typical law enforcement–his dedication to his job, his desire to help Dana, and the guilt motivating him to protect his son is very real and multi-faceted.
  3. Crawford’s lyrical and phenic writing delves into Dana’s psyche as she discovers clues that push her closer to the edge.
  4. Clues are pieced together while Detective Moss investigates and Dana racks her memory until ultimately the truth settles to the surface amidst a storm of lies.
  5. This murder mystery won’t disappoint when it comes to suspense and unexpected outcomes.

The Long View:
Dana Catrall discovers she was the last person to see her neighbor, Celia, alive before she was brutally murdered in her home.  Dana’s memory of the day is hazy since the women were day drinking together.  But Dana does remember Celia showing her a grainy cell phone picture of Dana’s husband and another woman, the Tart as Dana calls her. She also remembers her anger from that afternoon–anger at her husband, anger at the Tart, and anger at Celia.  Jack Moss takes the case because he remembers the woman who was murdered was his estranged son’s GED teacher, Celia Steinhauser, Mrs. S. As Jack’s second marriage is ending, this case seems to be a connection to his struggling son from his first marriage who has a pregnant girlfriend and no job. The pressure is on for him to solve the case when the beautiful and alluring first assistant prosecutor, Lenora, takes an interest. But even though the circumstances seem to point to Dana, Jack delves further, especially when he discovers his son’s possible involvement.  The other suspects, Ronald Steinhauser, Celia’s husband, and Peter Catrall, Dana’s husband, both have secrets to hide and manipulate Dana’s fragile state as her bipolar disorder induces more and more confusion.  The characters in this story are all flawed–the men are cheaters or the cause of failed marriages, the women are unhinged or unreliable. Crawford succeeds in making Dana and Jack likable, perhaps due to the fact that they each are looking for the truth rather than trying to cover up the lies.

The deets:
William Morrow
303 pages
March 2015
Order The Pocket Wife: A Novel


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