Friday, November 26, 2010

Marriage and Murder

Can you enjoy a book that you're not sure you understand? That's how I felt when I finished Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross. The story revolves around three sets of married couples, which sounds simple enough. But David Pepin, the husband in what I'll call couple number one, is a successful computer game designer who is writing a novel about ... David and Alice Pepin. What's more, both Ross's book and David's book begin in exactly the same way: “When David Pepin first dreamed of killing his wife, he didn't kill her himself. He dreamed convenient acts of God.”

Did David kill his wife, or did she kill herself, or neither? That is what police detectives Sam Sheppard and Ward Hastroll attempt to determine. Does the name Sam Sheppard sound familiar? Yes, it's the infamous Doctor Sam Sheppard who in 1954 was convicted of killing his pregnant wife Marilyn and spent nearly ten years in prison before the conviction was overturned and he was acquitted after a new trial. Although the real Sheppard died in 1970, this fictional one lives on as a detective, and the book flashes back to portray Sam and Marilyn's troubled marriage, his infidelities, and the events leading up to her death.

The third couple, Detective Ward Hastroll and his wife Hannah, have troubles of their own. Hannah comes home from work one day and takes to her bed with no explanation, and remains there for the next five months, as her husband becomes increasingly frustrated in his attempts to understand what has happened, even fantasizing her murder.

The book jumps around among these three couples, and also slips into scenes from David's book, and it's ofter not clear (at least to me) whether I'm reading about Ross's David and Alice or David's David and Alice. For example there's an odd dwarf hit man named Mobius (as in the endless Mobius strip?) who may be a real person or more likely is just a computer game sort of avatar in David's book.

Confusing? Yes, it is but it's also funny and intriguing and oddly entertaining. It doesn't all work, and I'm not sure I got it all, but I enjoyed the trip.
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