Michael Robotham admits in his Afterward that he never expected his Joe O’Loughlin series to go as long as it has. But the character continues to surprise and engage and in The Other Wife, Robotham gets to dig deep into O’Loughlin’s childhood and the experiences which shaped O’Loughlin as a character.
Fresh off his stand alone thriller The Secrets She Keeps it is perhaps not a surprise that the latest O’Loughlin thriller could also be described as domestic noir, if categorization was your thing. It begins with O’Loughlin being told that his father is in hospital having fallen down the stairs of a London house. He is also told that his mother has given the hospital his number but when he arrives he finds not his mother but another woman who claims that she too has been married to Joe’s father for the past twenty years. From here the plot spins out into a range of family secrets and revelations which shake O’Loughlin’s image of his father and forces him to reconsider their relationship. At the same time he is dealing with the aftermath of his own wife’s death and the effect that has had not only on himself but on his children.
Joe O’Loughlin, with his sometimes Holmesian powers of observational deduction, his continuing battle with Parkinson’s disease, his struggle to be a good father, is a truly genuine flawed creation. Despite a number of books under his belt, Robotham continues to find interesting aspects of his character and his history. While with some authors this often feels like skillful retconning, Robotham makes it all feel organic, as if these new insights will shine a sharper focus on O’Loughlin and his decisions in previous books.
But more than anything, The Other Wife is a razor sharp thriller. Robotham drops twists and reveals with military precision, casting suspicion around a range of characters as the revelations about them pile up. And it all builds to a revelation that manages to be both logical and surprising, and the requisite violent dénouement.
In The Other Wife Robotham once again demonstrates why he is not only one of the best thriller writers in Australia but one of the best thriller writers in the world.