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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 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.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By J on 08-22-10
This is not Jane Erye
Mix Updike, Tolstoy and Wilde with a dash of McInerny. A complex mess, but tasty in spots and worth a read if you're open-minded and able to float along. All the miseries of relationships and marriage, very much from a male perspective. If you'd like to know how a man experiences a difficult relationship, here it is. That said, I don't think the ladies will get it any more than they understand why men can listen to sports talk radio for hours. Well-written prose, and crafted with care, but a writer really being too clever for his own good. If you loved Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind you'll be okay here, if you hated or didn't get that film stay away - you'll be confused and disappointed. I had no problem with the narration, and really liked the book in spots...just found the negative relationship theme tiring and depressing. It's hard enough to work on my own 22-year marriage much less listen to these people's issues. And they do have "issues". The author/protagonist is searching for beauty, peace and love in a relationship but assigns it too much complication. Can I recommend a book I really didn't like? Yes I guess so. Glad I took a listen. Not sure if you will.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
By Bill S. on 07-31-10
Being among the first to review this book, I don't want to dismiss it as unworthy. I think the writer has a great deal of potential and much of it shines through here. Contrary to my fellow listeners, I had no trouble following what was going on when and with whom. There are actually only two stories, but one of the stories is told from several points-of-view so this can get confusing, but if one is paying attention, this shouldn't be a problem.
My main issue with this book was with the narrator. It took me a long time to get used to him and it took him a long time to find his voice which was stilted and bland through most of the first quarter of the book and became more lively and expressive as things progressed. I also had a bit of a problem with the sexual aspect of the story. The language could be crude and seemed unnecessary and somewhat gratuitous, so be warned. Not one to listen to with the kids in the car.
Overall, if you like a good murder mystery and it's okay if the author isn't Stieg Larsson, John Grisham or Rex Stout, give this one a try.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful