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As Long as We Both Shall Live


As Long as We Both Shall Live

JoAnn Chaney’s new novel, AS LONG AS WE BOTH SHALL LIVE, opens with a series of short chapters, alternating between 1995 in Madison, Wisconsin, and 2018 in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park. What holds these two episodes together is the character of Matt Evans. In 1995, Matt is a young newlywed, struggling to get through college while being supported financially by his wife Janice, an aide at a nursing home. Flash forward to 2018, and Matt is a successful businessman and father of two, happily married for more than 20 years to his second wife, Marie.

The second thing that holds these narratives together is that Matt seems to find himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. In 1995, jealousy and rage result in Janice’s violent death and a massive house fire. In 2018, Matt turns his back for an instant, and Marie falls from a cliff into the raging river below. Does this guy just have bad luck, or is there a reason why the women he marries have a habit of turning up dead?

"Suspenseful and surprising, AS LONG AS WE BOTH SHALL LIVE has more switchbacks than a steep mountainside trail."

Enter the two detectives called upon to investigate Marie’s death. Marion Spengler is the new kid on the block, assigned to homicide after years as a sex crimes investigator. She is tough and smart but still feels like she has something to prove in her male-dominated department. For this case, she is paired (rather reluctantly) with Ralph Loren, an old-timer with a reputation not only for colorful language but also for some pretty unorthodox interrogation and investigation methods. Even as the two odd-couple partners begin to dig into Matt’s personal and professional history, Spengler starts to hear rumors about Loren’s own history and his possible connections to the brutal death of his former colleague and the disappearance of that colleague’s wife and baby. Can Spengler trust Loren? And can Loren put aside his own prejudices and past demons in order to see the truth clearly?

Chaney’s novel is a propulsive read, but it also takes its time and lets readers get to know its characters --- especially the two detectives --- and themes. In particular, it offers plentiful insights into the disparities that often exist between individuals’ and families’ public personas and private dramas: “Even if you knew a person well, even if you considered their life to be an open book and you knew their family and their middle name and how they liked to take their coffee, it didn’t matter. You still couldn’t know what was inside them, in the deepest hidey-holes of their heart.”

Astute thriller fans may figure out the book’s central secret long before the detectives solve the case, but there are so many twists and turns here that nearly every reader will find himself or herself taken aback at some point. Suspenseful and surprising, AS LONG AS WE BOTH SHALL LIVE has more switchbacks than a steep mountainside trail.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on January 25, 2019

As Long as We Both Shall Live
by JoAnn Chaney