By way of an elaborate murder mystery, Mr. Peanut explores marital relationships, murder, and whether love and hate are one in the same. Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross tells the tale of David Pepin, a man who obsessively contemplates the death of his own wife, Alice, and thus has his life turned upside down when he is accused of her subsequent murder.
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Pepin is a successful video game creator and CEO, chairing the company that puts out his products. He is married to Alice who, even though she is dead at the start of the book, has her character revisited throughout. From the get go, two New York homicide detectives, Ward Hastroll and Sam Shepherd, are investigating Pepin for his role in Alice's murder. She was allergic to peanuts and died from accidental ingestion—Pepin is suspected of foul play. Shepherd, although he has no connection to the historical doctor that shares his name, has also been accused of murdering his wife, but had his case dropped after being exonerated. To complicate matters further, Hastroll's own wife has confined herself to her bed and is wasting away from an unnamed psychosis. Together, their lives oddly mirror the main character they are investigating, and the three of them become intertwined.
As the book progresses, Hastroll and Shepherd's investigation takes a turn towards the surreal when they link Pepin to a mysterious, prophetic, and quite possibly psychic hit man named Mobius. Not only does Mobius know a lot about Pepin—which is the reason why he appears to be linked to the case in the first place—but he possesses a unique ability to read the inner workings of every person he meets. Shepherd in particular succumbs to Mobius's odd talents during interrogation, and ends up admitting he himself is worthy of being implicated in his own wife's murder.
Throughout the novel we also learn that Pepin is writing a novel based on his life with Alice. In that novel, he compulsively imagines that she'll be killed, and then she actually dies, just like in his actual life. The fact that Pepin is both writing a book based on his life and telling us the story that mirrors its events makes it difficult to understand when and whether the reader is being fed fact or fiction.
As the detectives continue to investigate Pepin and gain information from Mobius, it becomes less clear as to whether or not the main character is innocent, or whether Alice's death was in fact a murder or suicide. A mesmerizing tale that borrows from multiple genres to achieve its somber undertone, Mr. Peanut deals with themes of marriage, and whether or not one can both love and hate one's spouse at the same time.
Best part of story, including ending:
I love how it keeps you guessing--much like a mobius strip, every lead you think you hold onto in solving Alice's murder ends up doubling back upon itself.
Best scene in story:
I love the scene where Mobius is interrogated by Sam Shepherd, and Shepherd ends up bearing his soul. This is because it reveals what the book is truly trying to do. Namely, reveal what it is about marriage that brings out the worst in us.
Opinion about the main character:
I like that David Pepin is constantly tricking not just the reader, but himself, by summoning and following false leads.