The Adulteress is based on the true 1920s Thompson-Bywater murder case and is virtually as fascinating. Margolin presents a brilliant case study in skewed infatuation and boredom.
Francis “Rats” Rattenbury, a highly regarded Canadian architect, loses his status and reputation when he marries the already twice-divorced Alma. In a move to re-launch themselves into society, they set off to England. A serious car accident that injures their son Felix brings Percy Stoner into their lives; he chauffeurs Alma about, as Rats forbids her to drive. A puzzling (as they are so dissimilar) affair of desire, tension, taunting control and possessiveness begins between the two—leading to murder.
With the onset of Alma’s pregnancy, Margolin sets a brisk pace, detailing how the social panic of adultery and illegal abortion (described in grisly emotional, see-saw detail) can lead to tragedy. Whilst this is fundamentally told from Alma’s emotional viewpoint, which veers from intense and scattering to brutally detached, The Adulteress retains its heartbeat and intended direction with great delivery and technique.