David Pepin has been in love with his wife, Alice, since the moment they met in a university seminar on Alfred Hitchcock. After 13 years of marriage, he still can’t imagine a remotely happy life without her—yet he obsessively contemplates her demise. Soon she is dead, and David is both deeply distraught and the prime suspect.
The detectives investigating Alice’s suspicious death have plenty of personal experience with conjugal enigmas: Ward Hastroll is happily married until his wife inexplicably becomes voluntarily and militantly bedridden; and Sam Sheppard is especially sensitive to the intricacies of marital guilt and innocence, having decades before been convicted and then exonerated of the brutal murder of his wife.
Still, these men are in the business of figuring things out, even as Pepin’s role in Alice’s death grows ever more confounding when they link him to a highly unusual hit man called Mobius.
Like the Escher drawings that inspire the computer games David designs for a living, these complex, interlocking dramas are structurally and emotionally intense, subtle, and intriguing; they brilliantly explore the warring impulses of affection and hatred, and pose a host of arresting questions. Is it possible to know anyone fully, completely? Are murder and marriage two sides of the same coin, each endlessly recycling into the other? And what, in the end, is the truth about love?
Mesmerizing, exhilarating, and profoundly moving, Mr. Peanut is a police procedural of the soul, a poignant investigation of the relentlessly mysterious human heart—and a first novel of the highest order.
Adam Ross’ debut novel is an often agonizing, always honest meditation on intimacy: about what it means to know a spouse so well that you think you know everything about them, and about how dangerous it is to assume that you do.
The book begins with the death of Alice Pepin, and soon, two detectives are questioning her husband, David, as a suspect. But instead of developing into a standard procedural, Ross weaves together the stories of three couples from three different time periods. One of the three is Marilyn and Sam Sheppard, the same infamous Dr. Sam Sheppard whose wife was murdered in the summer of 1954 and whose story inspired the TV show and movie The Fugitive. The Sheppards’ story soon develops into an important plot deviation, with Ross shifting back and forth through time and between points of view continually.
Narrator Mark Deakins anchors the listener throughout these continual shifts, giving a distinct, identifiable voice to each character that keeps the expansive story from becoming overwhelming. The book paints a morbidly fascinating picture of marital intimacy: these couples know each other so well that the most important things they have to say to each other are left unsaid, and it’s the things the husbands and wives in each couple don’t say that drive the plot. With this paradox always in play, the book requires a skillful narrator to delineate the intertwining but disparate stories, and Deakins is equal to the task.
Also moving is his reading of Ross’ beautifully detailed descriptions from a wintry New York to a swim with dolphins in Hawaii to a rainy drive along Highway 1 from L.A. to San Diego. As Alice and David stand trapped on the side of a mountain, on a path barely wide enough to accommodate putting one foot directly in front of the other, Deakins’ reading and Ross imagery combine to achieve an affecting moment packed with so many mixed emotions that the book becomes a bittersweet joy to listen to. Maggie Frank
“The most riveting look at the dark side of marriage since Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?…It induced nightmares, at least in this reader. No mean feat.” (Stephen King)
“A Möbius strip of a novel, folding the unsavory anticipation of American Psycho into a domestic drama straight out of Carver-esque America…An intellectual noir novel and an original voice.” (Kirkus Reviews)
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This is not Jane Erye
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