|Suzanne Forster has fashioned a very original and clever story,
peopled with well-developed characters. Although set within the
confines of the super rich, it is easy to empathize with
the two principals.
The story opens as Andrew Villard is desperately searching for his
wife who was lost overboard in a sailboat incident three days prior
in Mirage Bay. Because of their approaching divorce, Andrew is the #1
suspect in her presumed death. Returning from sea due to a storm, he
and his crew find a woman floating on the surface of some shore
rocks. Her face is battered beyond recognition but she is the size of his wife.
She is stabilized and during the initial surgery that sets the
foundation for her facial reconstruction, the doctors are able to
remove a disfiguring birthmark from her throat. Andrew's missing wife Alison did not have a birthmark. However, mindful of the threat of prosecution for murder, he provides her medical treatment and takes her home to his mansion for recovery. The
fact that the victim has traumatic amnesia is very helpful.
Alison, who had been disinherited at the time of her marriage, had
lost her claim to family as well. However, mother Julia, faced with
the permanent loss of her daughter, repents and insists that Andrew
and Julia visit. The story picks up after six months of recovery when
the time has come for Alison to reconcile with brother Bret and mother Julia.
Through clever writing, the reader is not certain what the recovered
victim knows, what Andrew's agenda is or why it is necessary for them
to travel to Mirage Bay to Alison's family for a visit that portends
of disaster. Brother Bret is despicable and mother Julia is the
archetype queen of dysfunction.
Andrew and his recovering “wife" have kept their distances from each
other during recuperation, days passing without seeing other, so it
promises to be stressful to share a bedroom.
Meanwhile, in Mirage Bay, the day of Alison's disappearance was also
marked by the brutal murder of Butch Bogart, the brother of out of
control FBI agent, Tony Bogart. He is being forced to take a 30 day R
and R, so is planning to use this time to find his brother's killer.
Hatreds and agendas converge with very wily plot twists as Forster
brings her story to an unforeseen ending. Areas of thoughtful
character depth surface with excellent dialog. The pacing is good enough not to be noticed, with an artful use of thescenic environment of the California coast and snapshots of the wealthy.
The Arrangement is a definite beach book!