Title: The Lovers’ Tango
Author: Mark Rubinstein
Review: Initially reading the blurb The Lovers’ Tango reminds me of the movie Basic Instinct and not in the sexually way, but it is a similar premise. There’s a murder an there’s also an author whose character dies in the same way as the actual dead person; there is also a romance, but apart from the premise the two are nothing alike.
The cover is also amazing as it give nothing away. There is obviously a couple dancing; possibly the tango, to tie in with the title but other than that there’s nothing else, and I love that because it leaves so much up to the imagination of the reader before they even start reading.
The first chapter does exactly what it is meant to do, not only does it get your attention, it literally grabs you by the throat and forces you to read it. We met Bill and Nora at a get together, where Nora dances the Tango and Bill is immediately smitten with her. Nora’s sister Lee arranges for Bill to meet her and the conversation suddenly turns heated. They agree to go to dinner to which Nora replies “And then what?” which has Bill weak at the knees and we can see this is the beginning of a very passionate romance.
We can see from the get go that Rubinstein is a very talented writer, and I was really excited to read this after it came all the way from California courtesy of Thunder Lake Press. Which is the first book I’ve have ever received from a publisher and I hope this review is the beginning of a very good relationship.
The atmosphere quickly changes as we jump 15 years forward and we learn Nora has died from MS among other things and Bill is completely heart-broken he is drinking heavily and possibility contemplating suicide, when police turn up at his place wanting to ask him some questions “to wrap up the investigation of your wife’s death”, which immediately sparks my interest as the police don’t investigate deaths by natural causes unless they have reason to.
During Bill’s integration we learn that police believe he has some involvement in the death of his wife – due to excess warfarin – he answers most of their question but he immediately loses his cool when they imply Nora was a burden to him which we know is false he loved her so much. Then he abruptly terminates the interview/integration, when they begin probing into his new book and they constantly try to imply he was cheating on his terminal ill wife – in reply to this he calls a lawyer.
I absolutely love Bill’s lawyer Ben Abrams he’s got some spunk telling the cops to go fuck themselves, absolutely amazing and I feel a bit guilty that I laughed during this scene despite the almost predicament Bill is in, but I honestly couldn’t help it.
In Chapter 7 Bill is arrested for the murder of his wife and he is completely shell-shocked as he is cuffed and taking for booking. During the course of the booking and bail hearing Bill sees and hears everything going on around him but he is completely numb and can’t believe this is happening and his thoughts are constantly turning to Nora and how the police and even accuse of murdering his soul mate.
Luckily for Bill the judge at the bail hearing know his lawyer and himself and goes extremely easy on him been as he has been arrested for second degree murder, he is given bail and released on his own recognisance.
We aren’t even 40 pages into the book and I am already completely hooked and I hope I can read more of Mark Rubinstein’s work, as this book is completely in tune with my bookish tastes and preferences.
A grand jury hearing finds that there is sufficient evidence to take Bill to trail for the murder of his wife. Which is completely shocking as when he is answering the questions on the stand he is practically sobbing and he knows the judgement will brand him forever whether he is found guilty or not. And we can see this is going to be a long, hard road for Bill and I empathise with him immensely.
In the next couple of chapters we are given some background on Lee and Nora as well as their upbringing. They both had a very happy children until their mid-teens when they lost both of their parents. Lee was (17) and Nora (15) when their father is struck by lightning and dies. Nearly two years later their mother dies from breast cancer this is extremely saddening as their mother is also a Holocaust survivor.
We sympathise with Lee because after the death of her parents she was the sole carer of Nora, and she has watched her mother and her sister waste away. We also empathise with Nora as she believes she is marked by death, as she has seen both of her parents die and also one her ex-boyfriends committed suicide.
We also get some background on Ben, and how if he wasn’t friends with Bill then he wouldn’t have met his wife Elaine and he wouldn’t be in the position he is now defending him in a murder trial. Ben ponders on what is and what could have been, which is what anyone would do in that situation as he shouldn’t be working Bill’s case as they are close friends it’s a conflict of interest but he can’t give the case to anyone because he feels in some way he owes Bill for introducing him to his wife, and in a way giving him his two children, which is a true dedication of friendship.
By Chapter 12 Ben and Bill are beginning to build their defence case. Admittedly it doesn’t look good for Bill, but Ben is determined to get him off no matter what the cost, he is even worked the case pro bono. Bearing this in mind Ben’s rates are $800 an hour and this case could take weeks, months. Ben also confesses to Bill that he has always believed that he could never hurt Nora, it seems the only person that doesn’t believe Bill is the prosecution and the public (but they will eat anything entertaining up like hungry hounds).
We are also introduced to Bill’s younger brother Charlie and given some insight to the boy’s lives. We learn like Nora and Lee, Bill and Charlie also lost their parents, their father was a con man and their mother became cripple from arthritis, and it was Charlie who cared for her. We also see a lot of love between the brothers and the even laugh about having a cheapest suit contest, which Bill loses. And it is the first time in the book so far that Bill laughs and smiles despite what he is going through and we are all secretly routing for him.
As Bill and Ben further prepare for the trail we learn Bill has been withholding information of importance that he had deemed irrelevant. This is information that Olsen is going to drag up and use against him, even his own novel and the research that goes with it, this also includes research on warfarin. Also for a crime writer like Bill he doesn’t really know what a trail feels like which makes him seem rather naïve in a way and Ben in bursts of emotion and anger is slowly drumming into him that if he continues the way he is i.e. withholding information, he is going to be blindsided during the cross-examination at trail.
We also meet Olsen for the first time in depth. He is an extremely selfish man living his lifestyle and supporting himself of his in-laws and his wife’s trust fund. We also see he is beginning his own affair with his assistant because his wife is on a downward slope in his opinion (although this can be expected after birthing and breast feeding two children) and his relationship with her isn’t great. One of the key issues in their relationship beside this affair (the wife doesn’t know) is that Olsen wants to move to further his career and become a DA but his wife doesn’t want to move. And this affair is his way of sticking it to her in a way.
As Bill goes through juror selection it’s a battle of the wills between Ben and Olsen. By the time the jury is chosen Bill feels that all the jurors will prejudice due to their envy of his success. Bill is also beginning to see Nora everywhere, first at the deli and now in the courtroom although it turns out they are just other women with a slight resemblance to his wife, and we feel he may be losing his grip on reality as he is overcome with grief.
Bill is being bombarded with advice and suggestions from everyone around him; family, friends but none of it seems to be sinking all he can feel is fear and grief and he has almost given up accepting that there might be no way to move on from the trail and Nora’s death.
By the end of Olsen’s opening statement of the trail Bill is being to doubt that even his best friend Ben can get him out of this hole.
But Ben’s opening statement changed all that even Bill’s doubting thoughts as he captivates the jury like the seasoned professional he is, but you can also tell despite the fact he is talking about facts that his statement is laced with emotion, for Bill and for the departed Nora, we can feel he is projecting his own emotions on the jury in order to find the truth and shatter Olsen’s allegations like a pane of glass.
By Chapter 23 we have read the testimonies of the pathologist and Nora’s doctor who has been with her through her heart condition, MS and also dealt with her drugs and day-to-day care. The pathologist concludes that he cannot say who or how the warfarin killed Nora only that it did. And Nora’s doctors’ testimony prove Bill was trained to give Nora her medication by himself and he clearly knew the risks as did Nora and they worked together closely to provide the best care possible for her. He also tells of a time when he as a doctor suggested a care home for Nora and Bill refused and continued caring for her at home where she was most comfortable, mentally and emotionally if not physically and this prove that Bill couldn’t have killed her. Although Bill is sure that a few of the jurors have already decided in their minds he is guilty and won’t hesitate in convicting him.
Ben is also starting to believe that it was a mistake for him to take on Bill’s case as he can’t be objective, and throughout the trail proceedings he is trying to throw Olsen off his game. The next witness called is Constance whose husband died from Parkinson’s disease. She is a friend of Bill’s and Olsen tries to get her to admit they were having an affair – which they were – although she never confesses it in order to protect Bill.
Bill also wants to take the stand and he feels that if he doesn’t the jury are going to believe he is guilty and is hiding behind the 5th amendment, although Ben has his reservations about this as he knows Olsen will try to tear Bill apart on the stand.
By Chapter 28 we are being to see Bill in a slightly different light as he has had one affair and almost had a second with Nora’s friend Gina. But after rejecting her, he avoided her even though she pushed her advances with statements like “your life is circling the drain” and “why not see someone else?” and Bill wanted to but he felt an unwavering loyalty to Nora. Despite this Gina held a grudge against him and try to pin him to the wall in court but Ben comes to rescue and completely turns it around making Gina look like the one who didn’t care for Nora and only wanted her out of the way.
By the end of the next chapter Bill’s novel finally enters the court and Olsen’s plot is being revealed, he is trying to use Bill’s internet history (mostly research for his novel, and Nora’s medication) to make it look like he planned the murder although Ben uses a loop-hole to allow them to very minimally dissect the novel for jury clarification, and it proves that Ben was purely researching his novel and the research linked to Nora’s medication was to make sure she was comfortable and on the correct dosage of each drug. Also each time Bill thought the drugs needed adjusting he would always consult a doctor, he had nothing but Nora’s best interests at heart.
One thing I really love about this novel is that the chapters are quite short so even if you are not a big reader you can read a few chapters then stop without forgetting where you are in the story. So this book would appeal to a lot of different people of all reading abilities and ages.
So by now we can see Olsen’s plan being slowly revealed but Bill notices mixed reactions from the jury which keeps us guessing whether or not he is going to be convicted. It makes us wonder whether Olsen has already done too much damage for Ben to undo, which is forcing us to what I assume is going to be an explosive climax.
Now we are running full speed into the conclusion of the novel. Bill has lost one of his most supportive jurors and she has been replaced with a man favoured by Olsen. The plea bargain Olsen offered has also been removed from the table and Bill has no choice now but to take the stand. As a reader I am now in a position where I want Bill to be innocent but I’m not entirely sure he is. After all there are many truths that haven’t been told like his affair with Constance. And he is the only person with means, motive and opportunity to end Nora’s life, if not to murder but as a mercy killing.
Throughout the trail Bill has maintained a composed exterior but as soon as he enters the witness box it vanishes and at times he is reduced to sobbing. When Olsen cross-examines him, he does something terrible without even knowing it. He takes from Bill the last piece of Nora, which he has been clinging to since her death. Leaving him empty and forcing him to confront his grief and think of his life without the love of his life. By the time comes for closing arguments Bill is on the verge of a mental breakdown.
Right now as a reader I’m very emotional. I’m angry as Olsen, I sympathise with Ben’s conflict and I am sad and insulted for Bill as he’s too emotionally empty to care. Nora gave him light and he now feels he’s alone in the dark. His testimony comes to an end with him sinking to the floor utterly broken and Olsen is taking smug pride in it. It makes me want to punch him in the face.
After over 10 hours of deliberation Bill is found not guilty of murder. But despite the trail ending it’s not over for Bill as he still has to live without Nora. The trail took a lot from him including his possibility of continuing a new life with Constance. But he does dig deep to finish Assassin’s Lullaby for Nora but the novel develops into something completely different that Bill wasn’t expecting.
His money worries are solved as all his books are on the bestseller’s list, but he is still alone. Although he keeps in touch with everyone he is detached. Lee no longer talks to Bill as it’s painful for them both plus the only thing they had in common was Nora and she’s gone.
Those final few pages finally detail the truth behind the trail and the acting. Bill did kill Nora but he did it out of love to end her pain and suffering and I completely agree with his decision. Although the novel leaves a few questions; especially whether or not Bill commits suicide but I feel whole putting it down knowing Bill ultimately did the right thing, even though it wasn’t the legal thing to do.
*This Book was sent to me by Thunder Lake Press in California, US*
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