I’ve never read a Laura Solomon book before, so I had no idea what to expect. Now I’ve finished Vera Magpie, I still don’t know exactly what I’ve read – comedy, tragedy, calm examination of a woman’s life – but it’s certainly a knockout. Vera, as you might gather from her name, is a collector. Among other things, of murdered husbands.
It’s not a talent she hides underneath a bushel. Her first sentence sets out her stall: I have murdered three husbands. Two of the killings she briskly excuses herself of. Basically, they deserved it. But number three, Larry, ‘was a good man…but by the time he arrived on the scene, I had a taste for murder and he was as good as doomed. Just call me Black Widow.’
Vera is in prison, but she tells her tale as if she might be jokily recounting the story of her rather minor troubles to her girlfriends, or perhaps her grown-up children. Except that she has no children. Pregnant with twins with the third husband, the good one – she tragically lost them. No tears, though – just a rather extreme reaction, with little reason and absolutely no remorse. Vera is a little weird.
It’s a very easy book to read, with some beautifully dropped in snags to bring you up short. My favourite, and the funniest for me (am I a ghoul as well?) is the beheading of her first real friend. Shocking, traumatic, it almost spoils their trip to London. So painful that Vera can’t even face ringing up the dead girl’s parents to let them know. It might upset them.
Vera doesn’t waste her time in jail. She discovers ‘literature’ and gets herself a really smart ‘no win no fee’ lawyer. Morally dubious? You bet. Never mind morality, this book is a little gem.
Reviewed by Jan Needle
Vera Magpie is available from here (it was on amazon but the link seems to have disappeared. If anyone finds it please send it this way!)
Find out about Laura Solomon here