Cassie O’Carroll was forty-three when she lost her orgasm. Between work (as a primary school teacher, where she was embroiled in a steeplechase for the newly-vacant Deputy Head position), raising two adolescents, and trying to keep a clean house despite her veterinary husband Rory’s menagerie, she was relatively content, if somewhat unfulfilled.
Her two best friends from college, Jasmine (Jazz) Jardine, homemaker extraordinaire, mother to the lovely Josh, and wife of philanthropist and humanitarian surgeon Dr David Studlands, and Hannah Wolfe, wealthy gallery owner, wife to penniless artist Pascal, and childless-by-choice (chiefly Pascal’s choice) are her closest confidants, but there are some things you don’t want to tell even your best friends. Especially when their lives are pretty much perfect, and when they’re competitive and a little bitchy. Cassie hates having to side with one or the other, which means they usually end up ganging up on her.
Everything starts to fall apart at one of Jazz’s dinner parties. For her 20th wedding anniversary, in fact. Still recovering from the death of her mother by cancer, Jazz develops a headache; when going through her husband’s medicine chest for pain killers she discovers a half-empty bottle of Viagra. Odd, when they haven’t had sex in over a year. Her suspicions aroused, Jazz pretends to go away for a week, but stays with Cassie instead, and spies on her husband every night. And every night she sees him pick up a different woman.
As Jazz’s relationship falls apart so too does Cassie’s – long unhappy with the unequal distribution of housework in their marriage, she talks Rory into therapy, which all goes hideously wrong. Though not as wrong as Jazz’s marriage – the novel opens with Cassie visiting Jazz in jail, where she’s been charged with David’s murder.
I found reading How to Murder Your Husband heavier going than I anticipated. This was partly due to the somewhat ponderous writing style – a little too loaded with punish word play (especially so hot on the heels of the pun-infested Pet Peeve), but also for the unrelenting misery of it all. None of the women are really happy, and Hannah in particular isn’t that much of a friend. Cassie is weak and doesn’t stand up for herself, and Jazz’s revenge, though understandable, was just a little too much. Plus the only surprise to me with the big revelation about David’s death was that neither of Jazz’s best friends saw it coming.
If you’re feeling a little disenchanted with love, marriage and fidelity, or if you want to throw the petty unhappiness of your life into sharp contrast, this could be for you. But if you’re interested in something with substance, or a light break from the dramas of your onerous life, keep looking. - Alex