Laura' which is also a classic film noir and probably her most famous book too (she also worked on the screenplay) Vintage published this in the last couple of years too so it's easy to get hold of. Also from The Feminist Press there's 'Bedelia' which is just brilliant on every level. 'The Man Who Loved His Wife' was everything I've come to expect from Caspary, altogether she wrote 21 books so I'm hopeful I'll find a few more at reasonable prices, or better yet that more will be republished - she deserves the audience.
The book opens with Fletcher Strode trying to make love to his young wife on New Year's Eve, he can't and he hates both of them for it. The next day he starts a diary. We learn that Fletcher has been a very successful self made business man, and that 5 years earlier at the age of 42 he fell in love with a woman 19 years his junior. Divorce, and marriage to Elaine follow in short order - at first the couple are happy, what's drawn them to each other is a shared vitality and zest for life. Otherwise they have very little in common. Then tragedy strikes, Fletcher is diagnosed with cancer and has his larynx removed. His voice, big, and a big part of him is suddenly gone, it utterly emasculates him. For Fletchers sake the couple uproot from New York and head out to California, Fletcher can't bare for people to hear him try and speak so they have no social life, he gives up work without having anything to take its place, and it's Elaine who deals with any of the mundane things that require a conversation.
The result for Fletcher is anger, depression, frustration, and a spiralling paranoia that his wife will take lovers. As a reader it was hard for me to remember that Fletcher isn't actually an invalid, all he should really have lost is his voice - the actual physical restrictions of the stoma are that dry heat is painful for him and swimming no longer practical. His problem is more that he's not a man given to inward contemplation or high brow pursuits; the loss of his voice bars him from the social and business activities he loved - it really is catastrophic. As for Elaine, it's really only at the end of the book that I realised how little Caspary has told me about how she feels or what she thinks.
When Fletcher starts his diary he uses it to record his fantasies of betrayal with some idea that he might commit suicide in such a way that it will look like his wife has killed him, the diary, full of imaginary suspicions will be the damning evidence against her. He doesn't want the death penalty for his wife though, rather he sees a life in prison for her with release only when she's to old to be desirable to other men.
Into an already claustrophobic mix Fletchers daughter, only 6 years younger than Elaine, and suitably resentful of the new wife, and her husband come to stay. Don and Cindy have been living beyond there means, smooth plausible Don is desperate for a job but not really prepared to work his way up. Fletcher despises him, nor is there much affection between father and daughter. There is plenty of motive for the pair to want Fletcher dead too. When he does die it's unclear if it's the suicide he might have been planning or murder, but the police end up thinking murder.
The genius of Caspary is how she keeps the reader guessing and the complexity of her female protagonists. Fletcher plays with the idea of Elaine being a guilty wife, Don realise that a guilty Elaine can't inherit her husbands property so is happy to throw suspicion on her, Cindy the daughter is motivated mostly by spite, and the policeman investigating has his eye on publicity and promotion. A successful prosecution of a young beautiful widow will do him no harm at all. Sergeant Knight is presumably gay, he certainly doesn't have much use for women, remains impervious to Elaine's beauty, and potentially ambivalent about the truth - what he's interested in is how good this case might be for his future.
Amongst all this Elaine remains elusive, Fletchers dark imaginings don't tell us what Elaine really feels, she repeats like a mantra that she loves Fletcher, but does she love him enough? This being Caspary you can be sure that she's no passive victim but not of much else.