Review: “The Third Mrs. Durst,” Ann Aguirre

Pros: The characters! The scheming! I’m floored!
Rating: 5 out of 5

I came across Ann Aguirre’s The Third Mrs. Durst on Book-Twitter. Aguirre said she’d been told she should market it as “bisexual erotic murder ladies”, and that sounded like fun, frankly, so I gave in and grabbed a copy. I’m so glad I did! This is one of my three favorite books of the year-so-far. (What an incredible book summer it’s been!)

Marlena Altizer has run away from home, leaving behind her poor, junkie mother and her younger siblings. She and her friend Jenny Song manage to snag jobs as models, although the conditions aren’t always so great. Marlena has a long-term plan, however. She catches the eye of Michael Durst, a controlling, but very wealthy, man, and sets about reeling him in. While she does become the third Mrs. Durst, however, she has something in mind besides money. Soon it becomes hard to tell in this cat and mouse game: who’s the cat and who’s the mouse? Michael controls every aspect of Marlena’s life, and his behavior escalates faster than she had anticipated. She may have bitten off more than she can chew, but she’s a fighter–and she’s determined to have her revenge.

I could have shouted in triumph, but I’d been planning this for so long that I could never break character.

Content note for rape and violence. There’s also some (not that much) explicit sex, of both f/f and f/m variety.

The characters in here are fabulous. Marlena and Jenny are two incredibly devious women, and I loved them. They and Vin (Marlena’s bodyguard) could be considered unlikable in some ways–at least compared to your traditional thriller leads–but I didn’t care one bit. Aguirre plays off of the stereotype of the young country naïf who gets in over her head, but Marlena is anything but naïve. Michael is absolutely psychotic, over-the-top in his glorious madness, and it works. Vin could also have easily been the stereotypical bodyguard love-plot, but he wasn’t. Marlena definitely incorporates him into her plans, but he’s a really interesting character, and their interactions are fantastic. So many clichés get subverted in here, and it’s wonderful!

The cat-and-mouse game gets truly dizzying. Unexpected characters come into play. Allies and enemies are fluid things. My heart raced through so many close calls and I was on the edge of my seat. Frankly my cats were lucky I finished before it was their dinner time or they’d have been left waiting! I don’t think I could have put this book down. Now I just have to hope Aguirre writes more books like this! I’ll certainly be waiting to buy them if she does!

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