After a tiring day at the hospital, Dr. Dorothy Laver reaches home only to find a note from her husband stating that he is taking his own life. Does Dr. Laver react hysterically? No. She merely goes searching for him and after having found him up in the bathroom with a few superficial cuts on the wrist, stitches them up... and soon Gerald Laver is propped up on the bed with a glass of whisky in one hand, a newspaper in the other, and joking around. All in a day's work.
Anna Clarke's One of Us Must Die is a terrifying look at what it means to live with a psychotic. The Laver household is a living hell. Dorothy - more successful than her husband - has not only to bear his poisonous barbs regarding her professional success and 'lovers', she also has to patch him up after each carefully staged suicide attempts:
He tortured her conscience with these fake suicide bids as an experienced kidnapper or hijacker played on the conscience of a civilized society.
But what hold does Gerry have over her? Why can't Dorothy just walk out of her marriage? Does the answer to this lies in an incident fifteen years earlier when their infant daughter had died of an overdose? Is it a feeling of guilt that binds Dorothy to Gerry?
As things reach boiling point with Dorothy thinking how easy it'd be to be free of all the mental trauma and emotional anguish -You can have your freedom from him, (her thoughts) kept telling her. It is terribly easy. All you have to do is to let it happen next time. Not to come to the rescue. To arrive home too late - new factors intrude upon this hellish situation. Dorothy finds herself seeking the company of a young man Peter in order to unburden herself; a young girl, Nina, enters the household as a help; and Dorothy's ailing father comes to stay.... And a death takes place. But can death always resolve an issue or does it give rise to another set of complications?
Clarke's book is terrifying look at mental and emotional abuse. The first half of the novel is brilliant in what it means to live with an emotionally unstable person who knows how to push your buttons but the later part seems to have been written in a hurry with the novel losing much of its steam. But all in all, here's an author I am glad to have discovered and whom I'd like to read more of.
First Line: "Gerry! Where are you?"
Title: One of Us Must Die
Author: Anna Clarke
Publishing Details: London: Collins, 1978 (The Crime Club)
First Published: 1978
Other books read of the same author: None