“Widows-In-Law” by Michelle Miller opens with a frightening confrontation and two women flattened against a plank avoiding gunfire. How did they get there?

Readers go back in time to mid-October. Lauren Silverman, the “first wife,” juggles relationships with her ex-husband Brian, his current wife Jessica, and her daughter Emily, now living with Brian and Jessica. The group struggles with all the things that happen in “extended” families, and had reached a tolerant truce. That all ended with a phone call, “Brian’s been injured.” Sorrow, chaos, confusion, and trauma follow any death, but especially Brian’s.  

The story includes flash backs detailing the past events that shaped characters. The casual conversational style helps readers get to know the participants and to see events from several perspectives. Little details come out piece by piece as Lauren and Jessica struggle with their new situation. There are money concerns, two households to maintain, bills for education, mortgage, and the orthodontist, but Brian’s job should provide earned commissions to allow them time to sort out finances. A call from Brian’s company changes all that. “Is there a problem?” Well, yes, there is a problem, and there is no money due to Brian’s family.

Events continue chronologically and quickly starting on October 18 and ending on December 1. Readers follow the search for answers day by day as indicated at the start of each chapter. The plot shifts points of view, with side-by-side story lines following Jessica, Emily, Lauren, and others. It seems that Brian had many secrets, dangerous ones, complicated ones, illegal ones, deeply hidden ones.

Colorful descriptions put readers into the scenes. “The streetlights still glowed outside Brownie’s but the sky had become sepia….The gray sky ripened into pink and orange as she rode downtown.”

Fear and tension fill every page. “An icy fear kept Jessica’s muscles stiff and her mouth dry. She was trapped between Lauren and the silent man.”

Lauren, Jessica, and Emily form an unusual alliance of women forced by circumstances to clean up a mess left by a death, to work together for mutual good, and to secure a financial future for each of them. I was given a review copy of “Widows-In-Law” by Michelle Miller, Blackstone Publishing, and NetGalley. It is full of secrets — codes, trips, money, and influence — all unveiled in surprising and dangerous ways. It keeps readers turning pages, anxious to learn what disaster or solution waits on the next page.