Best Intentions by Erika Raskin is a captivating domestic suspense novel that weaves together high-stakes hospital politics, the pressures of family life, and the consequences of trying to do the right thing, particularly in a city with a history as fraught as Richmond's.
Erika Raskin’s sophomore effort, Best Intentions, is a fast-paced, chilling story about family, motherhood, and the failure of a marriage. The novel begins at the end and at the beginning. It’s a first-person narrative told by Marti Trailor, and the first thing we know about her is she’s entangled in a murder trial. The second thing we know about her is that she’s the loving mother of three children and the wife of a successful OB-GYN in Richmond, Virginia. What we don’t know is the full truth, which lies between the two narratives as the story unfolds. We’re going from future to past in one timeline and from past to future in the other.
It may sound confusing, but it isn’t. As these two stories are told by Marti in parallel, there’s a sense of foreboding because we don’t yet know what happened at the point where these two timelines connect. It’s a beautifully executed plot device that is extremely effective because of the stark contrast between the two. In one timeline, we know Marti has been accused of murder. In the other, she’s a loving mother and frustrated wife. Completely relatable to the core as she constantly worries about the attractive young nurses at her husband’s job, among other things. Marti is an extremely likable character, and I found her humor despite her troubles endearing:
My personal backup singers, the Anxieties, roused. They crooned concern about the sitter’s references not really being legit, then finished with a flourish about me hiring someone shady to take a job my family didn’t want me to have in the first place.
Marti has taken a job as a social worker at the same hospital where her husband works. She and her boss, Win, provide assistance to young mothers—many of whom are in trouble or have no one else to guide them—and she’s very good at it.
Another element I found particularly engaging was the setting and the commentary on social class that is integral to the plot. Marti is the daughter of a powerful congressman, which puts her in a particular social class—as does being the wife of a doctor—but she’s still an outsider as a Jewish woman living in the Deep South where old money rules all. Her house, by comparison, is modest, as is the way her family has chosen to live despite the fact that she and her husband come from wealthy families. The social jockeying, the gossip, and the facade of politeness and propriety that tends to surround the social elite of the Deep South is spot on and provides a dramatic background to the events of the story.
“Did you tell Mikey that John isn’t a fan of Dr. Barbie? I mean that’s pretty much the only intel he really needs.”
Paige appeared in the doorway. “Excuse me, everyone! I just got a call from Bob. Little Tara Corelle was born a few minutes ago. All is well with new mama and baby. Hopefully our significant others will be arriving soon.”
A smattering of polite clapping broke out and I whispered, “Tara Corelle! Sounds like Confederate dinnerware.”
Colby smiled, adopted full-on southern. “The hostess pattern, hearkening back to simpler times, comes in lily white.”
The barbed comments from Marti and her best friend Colby provide a little comic relief and a sense of normalcy despite the freight train of events rushing to the dramatic courtroom showdown at the climax of the novel. Raskin certainly keeps us on our toes as we don’t even find out who the murder victim is until more than halfway through the book—and I bet it won’t be who you expect.
Best Intentions is a breathtaking novel of suspense that is utterly believable and incredibly compelling with an empathetic and relatable character. Trust me when I say that once you pick this one up, you won’t be able to put it down until the end.
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Ardi Alspach was born in Florida, raised in South Carolina, and now resides in New York City with her cat and an apartment full of books. By day, she's a publicist, and by night, she's a freelance writer. You can follow her on Twitter at @ardyceelaine or check out her website at ardyceelaine.wordpress.com.