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Trade Reviews

  Booklist Review

Goolrick twists a familiar story, refashioning it into something completely original. Many authors have employed the timeworn rural-man-advertises-for-mail-order-bride plot device, but few have permeated their narratives with gothic elements and suspense to such great effect. All is not as straightforward as it seems when Catherine Land steps off the train in rural Wisconsin in 1907. Who is Catherine, and what is her true intent? What shadowy secrets could middle-aged Ralph Truitt be hiding? Both these complex characters have plenty of traumatic baggage that is peeled away layer by layer as the two engage in a darkly dangerous game of check and checkmate. The unforeseen conclusion provides a big payoff for readers of this tension-laden debut from a promising new talent.--Flanagan, Margaret Copyright 2009 Booklist

  Kirkus Review

A woman with her own agenda is caught between two men obsessed with the past. After breaking through with a disquieting memoir about his Southern childhood, Goolrick (The End of the World as We Know It, 2007) applies his storytelling talents to a debut novel, set in 1907, about icy duplicity and heated vengeance. The autumn of Ralph Truitt's life finds the 54-year-old businessman waiting on a train platform in rural Wisconsin for Catherine Land, the plain woman who answered his advertisement, which read: "Country businessman seeks reliable wife. Compelled by practical, not romantic reasons." But the beauty who arrives is not the woman whose photograph Truitt obsessed over, and she's conspiring against him. "What she wanted, of course, was a quick marriage to Ralph Truitt, followed by his painless demise," Goolrick writes. "What she wanted was both love and money, and she was not to have either except through Ralph, except, in fact, after Ralph." Carefully, the author unveils the secrets between husband and wife. Truitt confesses his losses, which include his daughter, who died, his first wife, who had an affair, and his runaway son, who fled the violence suffered under his father's hand. The enigmatic Catherine does her best to hide her bleak history as a courtesan, undertaken to protect her sister, Alice, whom she still seeks. Surprisingly, there's more to Truitt than the bottomless lust and rage that threatens to consume him, as the faithless Catherine discovers when he dispatches her to St. Louis to find his long-lost son, who is playing piano under the name Tony Moretti, a name she knows all too well. Back in Wisconsin, the three parties converge and are pushed toward an unpredictable yet inevitable endgame. A sublime murder ballad that doesn't turn out at all the way one might expect. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
<p>Rural Wisconsin, 1909. In the bitter cold, Ralph Truitt, a successful businessman, stands alone on a train platform waiting for the woman who answered his newspaper advertisement for "a reliable wife." But when Catherine Land steps off the train from Chicago, she's not the "simple, honest woman" that Ralph is expecting. She is both complex and devious, haunted by a terrible past and motivated by greed. Her plan is simple: she will win this man's devotion, and then, ever so slowly, she will poison him and leave Wisconsin a wealthy widow. What she has not counted on, though, is that Truitt -- a passionate man with his own dark secrets --has plans of his own for his new wife. Isolated on a remote estate and imprisoned by relentless snow, the story of Ralph and Catherine unfolds in unimaginable ways.<br> <br> With echoes of Wuthering Heights and Rebecca , Robert Goolrick's intoxicating debut novel delivers a classic tale of suspenseful seduction, set in a world that seems to have gone temporarily off its axis.<br></p>
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