The Brimstone Wedding by Barbara Vine
The Goods: Parallel narratives involving an unhappily married nursing home attendant who takes up with a man of dubious intentions and the flashbacks of her patient, Stella, who embarked on a similarly ill-fated romance fifty years before. It ended, shall we say, badly.
About the Author: My friend, Amy, first told me about Barbara Vine, aka Ruth Rendell (recommending The Chimney Sweeper's Boy, which I thoroughly enjoyed). Rendell writes top-notch psychological thrillers and crime novels, but when she writes as Barbara Vine, the stories tend to involve ordinary people who, with the most innocent of intentions, decide to pry into a past that is better left un-pried.
Vine is one of those maddeningly good writers who doles out the sordid details bit by bit, saving the worst of it for the very last pages, where she proceeds to knock you flat on your ass. I was literally breathless by the end of this book.
If you like...: suspenseful mysteries like Case Histories by Kate Atkinson (and if you haven't read this one, you should), tales of infidelity and betrayal like The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain, and/or novels where the past is creepily unraveled like The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, this book is for you.