My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing
Published: March 26, 2019 by Berkley Books
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Synopsis: Our love story is simple. I met a gorgeous woman. We fell in love. We had kids. We moved to the suburbs. We told each other our biggest dreams, and our darkest secrets. And then we got bored.
We look like a normal couple. We’re your neighbors, the parents of your kid’s friend, the acquaintances you keep meaning to get dinner with.
We all have secrets to keeping a marriage alive.
Ours just happens to be getting away with murder.
Review: This book left me with a rather large challenge on whether I enjoyed it or not. For the first 300 or so pages, I was enthralled with this book. I loved it. I found the narrating character a bit bland but there was enough of other stuff going on that it didn’t bother me. However, the ending soured me on the rest of the book. It was an awful ending. Period. There was nothing redeeming about the conclusion of this book and it made the rest of the experience feel like a waste of time. So ultimately I can say that I liked it, but I can’t recommend it.
That was the short version that is free of spoilers. From here on out, consider yourself warned because this is a SPOILER ZONE:
Like I mentioned the husband was a bit bland, we’ll call him Tobias for the sake of the review but that isn’t actually his name. He’s a really big idiot. Similar to the level of idiot the husband in Gone Girl is. He should have known these things. He’s assisting his wife in kidnapping and murdering women, then he hears about all about her stories of her abusive sister, he finds out she kept one of the women alive for a year torturing her, she suggests making their crimes similar to a known serial killer, she just so happens to visit somewhere that she has no reason to be and then a witness comes forward to put doubt in the police’s mind about who is committing the crimes. Yet, through all of these things, he doesn’t realize for a moment that his wife is setting him up. I knew it. Every other reader knew it. The only person who didn’t was Tobias. Because he’s an idiot. Like his wife told him, “You always focus on the wrong things.” She was right.
I also don’t know how a guy like Tobias gets involved in something like this to begin with. I was promised Dexter meets Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Tobias was neither. He could barely stomach to hear a retelling of the murder on television, let alone actually commit one that wasn’t a complete accident. He can barely handle stalking a woman without having a panic attack. A psycho he is not. A killer he is not. An idiot, he definitely is.
Throughout most of this book I was really excited to find out what happened. I knew that Tobias was being set up, but I loved theorizing about how deep the deception went. Why was she setting him up? Was she involved with the prior serial killer too? Was she trying to frame him for not just these murders but those ones too? Her sister wasn’t really the abusive psycho one right? All these questions. All these theories. And yet, the ending didn’t surprise me or satisfy me. Every single one of those theories I thought up is exactly what happened. I don’t pretend to be any sort of genius. I don’t find myself particularly more intelligent than the average reader. But how exactly did none of this manage to surprise me and yet surprises others? I really don’t understand it.
Then, in the end, Tobias just walks away with his kids. The police listen to his whole story and think “well, he says he’s innocent and since the DNA at the crime scene is weird then I guess he is really completely innocent”. No, he wasn’t. While he might not have murdered any of the women that the police knew about, he did stalk and abduct several of them. At the very least he was an accessory to his wife’s murders. But it’s all wrapped up and he just walks away in about two pages. It was crap. Then we end with him using the same Tobias ruse on a woman that he used in the murder scheme with his wife. Why? Am I supposed to believe that this timid, beta male has decided to keep killing? He wasn’t the type before, why would be be now? It made no sense.
So while the writing was delightful, Millicent was spectacular, the resolution and narrator were just awful.
3 thoughts on “Review: My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing”
One of my teachers (Lisa Cron, in ‘Wired for Story’) put it well: if there is no foreshadowing of what you want the reader to know, readers will make up all kinds of things of their own, and you are not allowed to spring the ‘real’ version on readers in the last chapter. Basically because it makes them want to throw the book against the wall.
There is NOTHING you don’t know about in advance in my writing – if you are paying attention. Right there, up front, and in your face – and I hope you don’t see it because of how I write, and will be pleasantly surprised when you finally do.
It’s only fair to the reader.
It requires a lot of work. So? That’s my job.
I can see how it would be such a letdown to read this book. Does it make you swear you are not going to read her next one? That’s the conventional wisdom: the last chapter sells the next book. You sound as if you might – by sort of recommending the book, except for the end. Hmmm.
I have thought for a long time about reading more of her work because she has a new book out in April. It has a lot of good early reviews, but so does this one. So I think this might be a library one. I can see the good in her writing and her narrative was entertaining so I do want to love her. I will check out the next one but I don’t think I will pay for it, just in case.
Having a paper copy of my own books is very inexpensive compared to taking a class, or even to the effort required to get and return a library book, especially if you have to wait for it or request they buy it.
Plus I write all over them.
It bugs me to pay for some things, until I give myself a talking-to.
I don’t go back to them often once I’ve absorbed the contents, but I can – the good ones stay on my shelf, at arms length.