They Did It with Love Reviews:
Agatha Christie meets Desperate Housewives in Morgenroth’s smashing, Stepfordesque mystery. At the heart of the novel is Manhattan bookshop clerk Sofie, whose father’s death has left her wealthy and in need of a change of pace. Her husband
suggests moving to posh Greenwich, Conn., where she falls in with a group of bored, bitchy and smart housewives who gossip, drink too much and occasionally cat around with each other’s husbands. When young trophy wife Julia is found swinging from a tree in her front yard, the obvious conclusion is suicide—but both cops and neighbors suspect murder, and mystery addict Sofie sets out to do a little sleuthing. Morgenroth (Saved) places Sofie precisely in her contrasting urban and suburban settings with elegant prose, from “a tangle of dark grey branches” in Central Park to maple leaves that “drifted down—a bright autumn red—leaving a carpet on the ground like a huge pool of blood.” The character development and local color are so strong that this would be a hit even without the dazzling surprise ending.
Soccer moms and bake sales are nowhere to be seen in Greenwich, Conn., as described in this novel. Instead, the town's affluent women spend their days haranguing their maids, speed-walking through pristine streets and gossiping about real estate. And when they get together, it is often at a monthly book club meeting, where they chew over the latest mystery. The gatherings serve as the framework for this delightfully perverse whodunit.
The newest wife in the neighborhood, Sofie, is cautious, for a few reasons: For one thing, during the first tour of the massive Tudor that she and her husband, Dean, consider buying, the real estate agent seems preternaturally attuned to their private deliberations. It turns out that the agent had bugged the kitchen of the big, empty house. Sofie's discovery of the listening device adds juice to her already fertile suspicions about the behind-the-scenes shenanigans that seem to be taking place in the picture-perfect neighborhood of expensive homes. It doesn't help that Sofie's late father, a hard-charging, well-off Manhattan businessman, recently died and left her with decades' worth of low self-esteem that make it hard for Sofie to face adversity. He also, however, left her with a pile of money. And Sofie's husband sees in the windfall an opportunity for them to move away from busy, dirty Manhattan.
Dean, a blond, handsome, easygoing lawyer, convinces his wife that moving from Manhattan to Greenwich will revitalize her dormant dreams of becoming a novelist. "Haven't all your friends been saying for years that you should write a mystery?" asks Dean not long after her father's death. As Dean explains it, the quiet of suburban Connecticut would allow Sofie to concentrate on writing; she also might enjoy belonging to the local book club.
So the couple leaves Manhattan for the rustic stone walls and towering century oaks of Greenwich, where many familiar tropes of affluent suburbanites soon reveal themselves: These wives have no children and plenty of free time on their hands. To give their days meaning, they have formed book clubs that really are social vehicles. (There is a book club for "the moms" in the neighborhood, but Sofie learns that the two groups absolutely do not mingle.) Their husbands are contemporary Men in Gray Flannel Suits, commuting in to New York in the mornings and returning well after nightfall -- unless they opt to crash in the pied-¿-terre they maintain in town. Sofie busies herself with concocting elaborate meals for Dean; she plans to start writing as soon as she has adjusted to the insanely quiet surroundings of her new home.
But one cool autumn morning a few months after Sofie and Dean have settled in, Julia, the alpha member of the mystery book club, is found hanging from a tree on her own front lawn. Everyone instantly suspects Julia's husband, Alex, a customer so cool that he refrains from cutting down his wife's body in order to "leave things as they are for the police." But as the murder investigation gets underway, a tangle of affairs, shady pasts and hidden grudges casts doubt on the Guilty Husband theory.
The women who occupy the mystery book club are vivid if not strikingly original. A bottle blonde resents the club women for assuming she's dumb; a frumpy doormat takes exception to all the backbiting and sniping; and one woman's snow-blindingly white living room becomes a running visual gag. Gradually integrated into this bunch, Sofie impresses them all with her sharp observations and willingness to humor the club's dictatorial leader, a rival of the murdered Julia.
Morgenroth artfully lays out the ruthless social hierarchy: The wife of a high-flying hedge fund manager who is happily invited into the book club one day is dissed after her husband's fortune disappears and she moves to a lesser house outside the verdant enclave. The smart, melancholy detective assigned to investigate the murder-- we know him only by his surname, Ackerman -- uses the women's competitiveness to help solve the murder.
As the ring of evidence first circles around the likeliest suspect, then widens to enclose others, Sofie herself becomes an amateur detective, drawn to the dead woman's husband, wondering if their budding relationship might be significant to the case. There are red herrings galore, but Morgenroth's greatest accomplishment is the ease with which she describes a certain kind of ennui and aimlessness -- and the kinds of fatal betrayals that can lurk beneath all that suburban gloss.
Review By Amy Alexander
Agatha Crhistie meets The Stepford Wives in this rolling read about a couple who relocates to a posh Connecticut suburb, where one day the wife discovers a member of her book club hanging from a tree. She decides to investigate and uncovers– dum, da-dum, dum! –well, we won't spoil it for you. But if you like a sexy mystery, Morgenroth keeps the finger of suspicion rotating faster than a game of Spin the Bottle.
Review By Amy Alexander