Rated of 5
by R.M. Trilipush
Mr. Peanut is definitely worth a read. I enjoyed the Escher-esque plot, the allusions to Hitchcock and Nabokov, and the shout out to Silence of the Lambs. But most of all, I liked the writing. It's hard to find a book these days that is both literary and highly readable, and this is one.
Other reviews I've read have found the plot a bit overwrought. I disagree. The complexity adds to the suspense and storytelling. Did David Pepin kill his wife? Did he drive her to kill herself? Did he just fail to save her? The Hastroll and Shepperd interludes prepare the reader for the answer. The Hastroll storyline focuses our attention on a husband's frustrated attempts to understand the inexplicable behavior of his wife. We are made to feel (vividly) Hastroll's mounting anxiety and desperation as he tries repeatedly to placate his wife and becomes unraveled in the process.
The Sheppard storyline works a different angle. Sheppard's complete disregard for his wife gives us a glimpse into the mind of a total narcissist who doesn't care about his marriage until it's too late. Hastroll wants to save his marriage. Sheppard basically destroys his. If nothing else, Mr. Peanut has much to say on what a marriage can withstand. By the time we come to the end of the novel, we are prepared for ANY answer with respect to David Pepin.
The cleverness of the novel -- at least on the plot level -- is that it provides a means for the reader to fully explore EVERY answer. Saying more than that would give away huge spoilers. But the plot, clever as it is, is not really what kept me reading. I was drawn in by the writing. Ross's talents as writer are on full display. The quotidian concerns of married life are verbalized intelligently and elevated to high drama.
Parts of the novel are cinematic (David and Alice in Hawaii, Sheppard's interrogation of Mobius). Even descriptions of setting and place are done thoughtfully. Very little feels plot-driven or contrived, even though the story relies heavily on the conventions of a murder-mystery. The novel is smart in its language and execution (no pun intended), and makes no bones about it. I thoroughly enjoyed it.