Like so many other books in this genre, My Lovely Wife is a domestic suspense thriller; but this one is outstanding. Unbelievable, but utterly convincing; over-the-top, but totally mesmerising. A fantastic page-turner of a read, full of riveting twists (and as one critic wrote: ‘Dexter meets Gone Girl.’)
As you’ll have gathered, I really enjoyed this wickedly irresistible book, and it’s hard to believe it’s a debut crime novel. The central figures are a married couple, happy, in love, with two teenage children. The only thing that makes the parents different is their idea of foreplay. To keep the spark in their marriage alive they commit serial murders.
The Lovely Wife of the title is Millicent; her husband narrates their story. He’s a tennis coach at the local club in their rich suburban Floridian enclave. Millicent is a real estate manager. The couple have been married a long time and things have become a little stale. Millicent is the driving force behind the sinister solution to alleviate sexual boredom – or is she?
As in Gone Girl, you never quite know who to believe – husband or wife.
The wife’s past is dark; cloudy. When her secrets are slowly revealed the shock is riveting. Downing shrouds Millicent in mystery; we, the readers, are aware of her allure but can’t quite understand it. The husband is devoted to his wife. She rules the family with a rod of steel. What Millicent says about school, homework, indeed everything, is totally obeyed.
Yes, Millicent wields power. She’s meticulously organised and bossy. Her husband cannot do without her.
He, however, is strangely loveable. Murderous he may be; he still, oddly, is a rather endearing sort. Devoted to his wife, he’s perfectly happy to go along with her dark urges. He’s Millicent’s stalker – picking out potential victims (always young women) who he thinks might take his wife’s fancy. He even works out how to dispose of their bodies. He’ll do anything to keep Millicent happy.
It’s all really twisted, of course – but gradually quite shocking to us, the readers, to find that we are beginning to quite like him.
Despite all the killings, this isn’t particularly a violent novel. It’s more about cerebral darkness and character development. Although he has a neat trick of picking up potential victims by pretending to be a deaf man called Tobias, the husband’s real name is never revealed. That’s because his identity is totally subsumed by his wife’s. And just when you think he knows all there is to know about Millicent, this story takes an even darker turn.
Millicent the Magnificent really goes to town in the final pages. The twists never end – right up to the last paragraphs.
This book is an enormously entertaining treat. It’s the one you’ll stay up all night for. Freakish, deliciously dark’ a real wild ride. And the next time someone introduces you to ‘my lovely wife’, you may be well advised to turn and run.