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Critical Praise

"A Reliable Wife is most definitely a bodice-ripper disguised as literary fiction… First-time novelist Goolrick is a fine, masterful writer."

Metro New York

"[A] brilliant book… By turns tantalizing, surprising and shocking, A Reliable Wife shows us how the past and its echoes can change one’s life as easily as a new realization can change one’s mind."

January magazine

"A “fierce and sophisticated debut novel… In its best moments, A Reliable Wife calls to mind the chilling tales of Poe and Stephen King, and at its core this is a tragedy of Shakespearean dimensions. It melds a plot drenched in suspense with expertly realized characters and psychological realism. The fate of those characters is in doubt right up to this relentless story’s intense final pages, and Goolrick’s ability to sustain that tension is a tribute to his craftsmanship and one of the true pleasures of a fine first novel."


"Its prose unspools like a fever dream that is at once lushly detailed, hugely complicated, yet completely logical… Goolrick's writing style is at once hypnotic and understated. Each word has its place, yet the words follow each other so surely and without the reader pausing to breathe, let alone look up, that the novel creates its own kind of ‘snow blindness’… [A] remarkable novel… Once you start reading, you'll be hooked."

The Book Studio

"Astonishing, complex, beautifully written, and brilliant, A Reliable Wife is a nearly-forensic look at love in all its incarnations, with all its damages, deceptions, and obsessions, run through with points of light and pinned with ruinous truths."

Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants

"A Reliable Wife burrows its way deep under the reader's skin. It moves along like a tale foretold, with an energy that is impossible to resist and an almost mythic resonance. You begin reading this novel at your peril for it will keep you straining to know what happens next until you come to the last, redemptive sentence."

Daphne Merkin, author of Dreaming of Hitler

"A dark, shimmering, opalescent novel… a book to live in, a book that would have made a great movie for Bette Davis and Claude Rains. A Reliable Wife promises much, and it delivers because it confronts its own ripeness, then grabs it and sprints… It's a strange, shimmering novel, a fever-dream of betrayal and eroticism whose impact remains after the fever has passed."

Palm Beach Post

"This book goes far above and significantly deeper than any simple romance…or many psychological thrillers… Goolrick does not just give glimpses into the thoughts and yearnings of these two people, but rather he entangles himself in their psyches, often lingering longer than is comfortable, until it is clear how difficult it must be to live inside their skins… Readers will…be compelled to discover each detail, to keep turning the pages as Goolrick draws a picture of each character's intentions and the possible, terrible outcomes."

St. Louis Post Dispatch

"A tantalizing pace that will have you flipping faster and faster through the pages…. A beautiful and haunting read, a story about all the different manifestations of love --- a story that will stay with you."

Minneapolis Star Tribune

"With his Northern gothic novel A Reliable Wife, acclaimed memoirist Robert Goolrick creates an unforgettable heroine --- a mail-order black widow."

The Daily Beast

"A gothic tale that's as much psychological as it is plot driven… satisfying and surprising."

Charlotte Observer

"A weighty psychodrama laced with Hitchcockian suspense."

Time Out New York

"The past few weeks when booksellers, reviewers and librarians were talking about books they loved, very often we all were talking about A Reliable Wife… [The] story takes you on one very wild ride."

"A “glittering, poisoned ice cube of a tale… Has a little of the Gothic feel of Daphne DuMaurier's Rebecca --- complete with a dead first wife, suspicious housekeeper, and gorgeous mansion… A Reliable Wife is eminently readable and should delight fans of old-fashioned Gothic romances… Goolrick is a solid wordsmith, and he handily manages the impressive task of making readers care about a woman bent on cold-blooded murder. And generating the proper Gothic ambience in Wisconsin is no mean feat."

Christian Science Monitor

"A buzz-worthy debut novel."

Wall Street Journal

"A gothic tale of…smoldering desire…. The novel is deliciously wicked and tense, presented as a series of sepia tableaux, interrupted by flashes of bright red violence.... Once you've fallen into the miasma of A Reliable Wife, it's intoxicating."

Washington Post

"Suspenseful… jam-packed with delicious twists, turns and surprises from beginning to end… Not only a fabulous up-to-the last-minute page-turner about love, lust, lies, deception, heartbreak and resiliency but also a nicely written and elegantly descriptive story… Each character's story is captivating and surprising. You won't put this book down. It's that delicious, up until the last page."

Miami Herald

"[A] beautifully written, beautifully dark book. Goolrick is a superb writer who uses repetition to great effect… [The plot’s] twists and turns are a pleasure to navigate, the writing so mesmerizing it makes one wonder whether Goolrick practices; anyone who can turn a sentence fragment into poetry so well has to work at it…. Goolrick's unique tonality and his ability to convey complex emotions in elegant, spare language embed A Reliable Wife in your head."

Chicago Sun-Times

"After breaking through with a disquieting memoir... Goolrick applies his storytelling talents to a debut novel, set in 1907, about icy duplicity and heated vengeance... A sublime murder ballad that doesn’t turn out at all the way one might expect."

Kirkus Review, Starred Review

"[A Reliable Wife] generates some real suspense... This darkly nuanced psychological tale builds to a strong and satisfying close"

Publishers Weekly

"Goolrick twists a familiar story, refashioning it into something completely original... Few have permeated their narratives with gothic elements and suspense to such great effect... The unforeseen conclusion provides a big payoff for readers of this tension-laden debut from a promising new talent."


"Debut novelist Robert Goolrick has managed a minor miracle. In the kind of precise, literary prose that breathes life into his complicated characters, Goolrick, author of an acclaimed memoir, has also managed a rousing historical potboiler, an organic mystery rooted in the real social ills of turn-of-the-century America. Whether writing about the farms of Wisconsin or the fleshpots of St. Louis, he re-creates a full-bodied, believable environment, and he peoples these worlds with characters as sensitive, as tortured as any contemporary souls. The result is a detailed exploration of love, despair, and the distance people can travel to reach each other that is as surprising, and as suspenseful, as any beach read."

Boston Globe

"A thrilling, juicy read… The writing is beautiful and the story is captivating. It's a real page-turner."

Today Show

"A killer debut novel… Suspenseful and erotic… [A] chillingly engrossing plot… Good to the riveting end."

USA Today