The first time I heard Lisa Jewell’s name was back in 1999. I was watching Late Review on BBC2 and the notoriously caustic critic Tom Paulin (one of my all-time heroes) described Jewell’s debut novel, Ralph’s Party, as “a breath of fresh air.”
Tom Paulin’s approval was good enough for me. I hotfooted it round to my local bookshop the next day and read Ralph’s Party from cover to cover.
As always, Tom Paulin was right. It was brilliant. I’ve been a fan of Jewell’s ever since and the moment I spotted her new novel in Waterstone’s I snapped it up like a shot.
The Third Wife is Jewell’s 11th book and like its predecessors, it’s poignant and wise, smart and original.
The story centres on Adrian, a 47-year-old architect and serial husband. When Maya, the third wife of the book’s title, mysteriously walks into the path of a London bus in the middle of the night, no one can fathom what happened.
Adrian is pole-axed with grief and haunted by one question: was it a tragic accident or suicide? After all, Maya had everything – a blissfully happy marriage, a teaching job she loved and the generous acceptance of Adrian’s two ex-wives and five children.
But little by little Adrian starts to realise that Maya had secrets he didn’t know about – and enemies he’d never suspected in a million years.
Jewell’s latest book is a compelling read, the sort of book you can’t put down, even when you’ve got a pile of pressing deadlines. I was slightly puzzled as to why women found the needy, self obsessed Adrian so mesmeric but apart from that, The Third Wife is every bit as good as Ralph’s Party.
The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell (Century, £12.99)