Five great books set in BOSTON
Psychological thriller set mainly in New York (Alafair Burke talks about setting)
9th March 2018
The Wife by Alafair Burke, psychological thriller set mainly in New York, also the Hamptons.
Angela has a history. She was kidnapped and held for three years against her will. She bore a child to her kidnapper and only found freedom when a second woman was taken to build the ‘family’. The traumatic episode has been consigned to history and she continues into her future without really addressing the impact such an experience might have had on her. Her parents too behaved as though nothing untoward had happened and decide to move on. Yet her kidnap is like a “cloud” in the present, it is potentially a dangerous secret that will need careful handling in any marriage.
Angela – the eponymous wife of the title – sets up a catering business in the Hamptons after her release, where she meets her husband to be, the squeaky clean and wealthy Jason, an economics Professor. They move to a carriage house in Manhattan where no-one is aware of her tragic past. She has really scored with Jason, who is involved in various businesses, one of which supplies clean water to developing nations. He’s simply a good guy, he takes care of his family, they can afford an amazing house in a swanky part of the city, he doesn’t stir the muddy waters of her past. Quite blissful, really, until there is an accusation of sexual misconduct against him. It simply will not go away and is then compounded by fresh allegation from another woman.
Surely her loving husband cannot be a perpetrator of serious sexual crimes? Who can she believe?
This is an excellent story that moves the goalposts, subtly and effectively, as the offences are examined by the police and the judiciary. Could Jason really be guilty? Surely two women wouldn’t fabricate stories? Where does the truth lie….
A gripping and telling story so pertinent for our times, and a little look behind the shuttered lives of New Yorkers. A trip to Agata and Valentina at 1505 1st Avenue, perhaps or dinner at Lupa (as you will find out below, this is Alafair’s local Osteria).
Tina for the TripFiction Team
Over to Alafair for some great insights into her chosen locations….
I moved to New York City fifteen years ago and am convinced I’ll never finish discovering it. At 305 square miles, it feels infinite. I can at least say I’ve been to all five boroughs, but the reality is I, like most Manhattanites, rarely cross a bridge or tunnel unless I’m leaving the city altogether. And as a resident of Greenwich Village, even a trip to the Upper West Side can feel like a commute. I often joke that I live my entire life within a ten-block radius. Even that tiny circle is constantly evolving as various residents and business owners come and go.
Not coincidentally, I began the first of my books set in New York City, DEAD CONNECTION, a few years after moving here. I still walked around the city with a sense of shock (“I can’t believe I live here!”), but I had come to know pockets of it well enough to try to my hand at pulling this iconic city onto my pages. Rather than write from the perspective of a born-and-bred New Yorker, I did it through the eyes of another relative newcomer, NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher. Like me, Hatcher came to New York via Wichita, Kansas. You can take the girl out of Kansas, but you can’t take Kansas from the girl.
Like Ellie, I eventually found a surprising new home in downtown Manhattan. College students, long-time bohemian-types, and owners of new high-end high-rises make up an ecosystem that feels both symbiotic and dynamic. I can be completely anonymous–blending into a crowd, navigating mobs in the Union Square subway’s underground labyrinth–and yet still bump into a friend at the corner coffee shop.
My favorite spot in the area is Washington Square Park. No matter how the neighborhood may change, the park retains its eclectic mix of characters—the buskers, dancers, dog walkers, chess players, and performance artists. Young people frolic in the fountain, couples make out in the grass, and the pigeon man sprinkles birdseed to his flock of winged friends. It’s a magical place.
That Manhattan is now also home to Angela Powell, the main character of my new novel, THE WIFE.
Angela grew up on the south fork of Long Island. What was once a community of fishers and farmers is now known as the glamorous, celebrity-infested, wealth-drenched “Hamptons.” People like Angela’s family got lost in the transition, working to the bone all summer to save enough money to make it through the rest of the year. Raised by a handyman and a housekeeper, Angela was one of the locals that the city people thought of as “the help.”
But then Angela met newly tenured economics professor Jason Powell while she was catering a summer party. She assumed he was yet another city visitor looking to hook up with a local as part of his vacation adventure. To her surprise, he spent a year trying to convince the single mother otherwise, eventually persuading her to marry him and move with her son, Spencer—now their son—into Manhattan.
Jason’s world in New York City becomes her world, albeit one in which she doesn’t feel entirely comfortable. Their son attends an elite private school. They live in a beautiful Greenwich Village carriage house that’s listed on a registry of historic buildings. And, on a whim, they dine at some of the best restaurants in the world.
It’s no coincidence that a favorite spot for Angela and Jason is the Italian restaurant Lupa, on Thompson Street, just south of Washington Square Park. I can often be found there with my laptop, at the same back corner table that the Powells favor.
But as much as Angela embraces this new life, it becomes clear that she can’t escape her past – including secrets that began on the south fork.
The landmarks that she grew up with continue to provide solace, even as Angela struggles to hold together the cascading pieces of her carefully curated life. She still frequents Gerard Point at the far end of East Hampton: “I waited until I had made the turn from Springs Fireplace Road onto Gerard Drive to remove my burner phone and a single Post-it note from my skirt pocket. Sitting on my favorite boulder, a few feet from the water, I called an international number and then used the keypad to follow the automated instructions.”
Angela even sees the Montauk Lighthouse, which is chiefly a tourist destination, with renewed value when Jason becomes part of her life. Together, they take Spencer, who loves it.
Like Angela, part of my heart beats with the pulses of New York City, while another part years for the sounds of ocean waves and cicadas.
Thank you to Alafair for sharing such lovely insights into her favourite areas of the city and the Hamptons…
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