Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross

I think I heard about this book from both the Bookrageous podcast and the Books on the Nightstand podcast. This book is a circling contemplation on the dark moments in marriages and relationships contrasting with the unique relationship that is formed in a marriage wherein after years together two people know each other better than anyone else.

The main character, David Pepin, a computer game designer, starts the novel by explaining that when he first started fantasizing about his wife’s murder it took place through convenient acts of god. For instance, she would be struck by lightening as they ran across a beach to get out of the rain. Within a few pages his wife, Alice Pepin, does die from an allergic reaction to peanuts. When the police arrive Alice is found dead on the floor and a plate of peanuts on the table. Did she commit suicide by eating the peanuts or did David kill her by stuffing the nuts down her throat?

The middle of the book focuses on a detective in the case Detective Sheppard formerly Dr. Sam Sheppard, famous for possibly killing his wife, Marilyn Sheppard, during the 1950’s (The Fugitive). Various narrations of the last days of her life occur over and over again suggesting two or three possible murderers.

David Pepin’s interest in MC Escher is reflected in the book. There is a book within the book in which a character is writing a book. After awhile it becomes hard to determine who is writing the book that we’re reading.

The murders of Alice and Marilyn are introduced early in their respective narratives and are thus constantly around the corner. At times the violence around their deaths is graphically described, especially Marilyn’s death. After reading this I felt like I needed a “palate cleanser” that was relatively simple and pleasant.

After the cut I have discussion that involves spoilers and more thoughts on the book.

About half way through the book a new character is introduced, Mobius, who is apparently a killer-for-hire that specializes in murdering wives. Various versions of both Marilyn’s and Alice’s deaths involve him. When Richard Eberling is hiding in the Sheppard’s house on the night of her murder he runs to hide when he hears a key being inserted in a lock. At this moment Sam Sheppard is sleeping on the couch and Richard Eberling is obviously hiding within the house so both of the main suspects couldn’t possibly be outside inserting a key to get inside. I think that this is probably Mobius coming in the house.

Now that I’ve just argued that Mobius is an external character responsible for killing Marilyn I want to backtrack and suggest that he is a personification of the violent irrational desire to kill that the men of the novel feel towards their wives. He in a sense releases David Pepin of this guilt by taking on the actions. All of the ways that Alice either dies or comes close to dying are either suicide or acts of god but yet Mobius takes responsibility for these events.

I was a little disappointed with the “What really happened” section towards the end of the book which explained that Alice died during a gastric bypass surgery. It seemed a little like a copout at the end, like Adam Ross had to finally redeem this character rather than leaving it up to the imagination of the reader. It seemed to defeat the purpose of the question hanging over every page- is David capable of murder?

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