In his debut novel with the incredibly disturbing cover, Adam Ross explores the dark side of human nature especially with respect to marriage, interweaving three tales in which husbands contemplate (and possibly succeed at) killing their wives.
In the predominant storyline, David Peppin is a successful video game designer that specializes is making games based on the intricate and perception-challenging works of M.C. Escher, and is a huge aficionado of Alfred Hitchcock films. Knowing these two things is important, because Ross sets out in an intricately devised series of events that leaves the reader wondering what might be real and what might be an illusion.
Peppin’s marriage is not particularly happy and he begins to imagine ways in which his wife Alice might meet an untimely demise. Soon after, the highly allergic Alice is found dead, after apparently eating a lethal dose of peanuts. The middle of the book detours into an account of the sensationalized events surrounding Dr. Sam Sheppard (later the basis for “The Fugitive”) who was tried and convicted for murdering his wife. At first, the change of place and time (Alice’s death occurs in present-day NYC, Sheppard’s in 1950s Ohio) is jarring, but as the parallels between Sam and David emerge, each story illuminates the other, and you’re almost sorry when the narrative returns to the present day. Along the way, Ross creates an insightful and disarming commentary on the nature of relationships that isn’t always pretty — in a way asking the reader (perhaps especially the male reader) to put themselves in Sam/David’s shoes.
The final chapters accelerate in pace and put the reader through a bit of a you-better-have-been-paying-attention mental steeplechase as the plotlines converge and diverge and the truth of Alice’s death is revealed. I admit that I had to go back and listen to the last few chapters again, just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything.
Some might not like the novel’s structure, but I enjoyed the clear challenge to keep up with the mystery. In a way, it sort of reminded me of LOST. And like that show, the finale may divide readers into pro and con camps. Me? I liked it.
Though a couple of thoughts come to mind after consideration: first, I was left wondering why none of these unhappy husbands considered, you know, just getting a divorce. And second, I’m not sure I’d want to be Mrs. Ross.
Four stars out of five