Book review and synopsis for A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight, a mystery slash legal drama with a convoluted plot.
In A Good Marriage, Lizzie Kitsakis is a criminal defense attorney who gets a call from a guy she used to know from law school, Zach Grayson. Zach is being held without bail for the murder of his wife Amanda. It's a lurid situation involving a sex party and a blackmail scandal among their community of friends.
What's more, as Lizzie investigates into the circumstances around Amanda's death, she finds that secrets from her own life are threatening to be revealed as well.
(The Detailed Plot Summary is also available, below)
Detailed Plot SummarySection-by-Section SummarySee the Section-by-Section Summary of A Good MarriageQuick Plot Summary
The book switches around from points of view / timelines and is interspersed with transcripts of grand jury testimony.
Lizzie Kitsakis is a criminal defense attorney who gets a call from a guy she used to know from law school, Zach Grayson, who is now a wealthy entrepreneur. Zach has been arrested without bail for the murder of his young, beautiful wife, Amanda. He wants Lizzie to represent him. There was a annual key party (partner-swapping sex party) that is hosted by one of Amanda's friends, Maude Lagueux, and Amanda was found dead afterwards. Lizzie begins to investigate by visiting the crime scene and asking a private investigator friend, Millie, to help. They find a print in the blood.
Before her death, Amanda was in charge of running Zach's foundation, which her friend Sarah handles the finances for. Amanda has also lately been getting a bunch of hang-up calls which Amanda fears is her father, who raped her repeatedly growing up. She finds a bouquet of lilacs with no name left for her from him as well. Amanda also gets a call from the foundation's accountant wanting to meet with her on an urgent matter, but she forgets about the meeting.
Meanwhile, at the private school where Amanda and her friends send their kids, there has been a hacking incident over the past few months where families of students have been subjected to phishing and hacking attacks to steal data off their computers and blackmail them. Maude and Sarah are both targeted. Maude is especially upset over her 15-year-old daughter being blackmailed into performing sex acts on camera.
Lizzie initially suspects Amanda's father is responsible, but discovers that he is dead. Amanda also has talked about a friend, Carolyn, who is dead as well. Amanda seems to have delusions about them both still being alive, likely due to her unresolved trauma from her childhood.
(There's a lot more details that points the blame at potentially Lizzie husband, Sam, or Maude's husband, Sebe, but all of these are red herrings. See the Section-by-Section Summary for all the details.)
When Lizzie contacts Zach's accountant to pay Millie, she learns that Zach is broke. (When Lizzie tries to quit, Zach blackmails her with a secret she kept from her boss about her financial troubles due to her husband Sam's drinking.) The accountant also says that Sarah was very stressed out about potentially losing her job. Lizzie soon learns from her boss's secretary, Gloria, that Sarah's husband Kerry is the Gloria's former boss. Kerry was working at Lizzie's firm before she got there. Lizzie learns that he was fired for harassing legal assistants.
Millie's analysis determines that Maude's prints are the ones at the crime scene. Lizzie confronts Maude who admits that she was at Amanda's house because she suspected Zach was responsible for the blackmail. Maude says she heard Amanda fall from the stairs and saw a tall man in red sneakers run out the door. Lizzie finds out from Sarah that Kerry wears red sneakers. She also confirms with the flower delivery boy that Kerry was the one who left the lilacs for Amanda (and likely made the calls as well).
Kerry is apprehended. In his statement, he explains that the death was an accident. He wanted to comfort her, but she flipped out and started hitting him and fell down the stairs. Lizzie gets Zach to admit he was responsible for the blackmail on a recording. (Attorney-client privilege doesn't cover on-going crimes, so Lizzie is free to report him for that federal crime.) Sam goes to rehab.
For more detail, see the full Section-by-Section Summary.