At first you think the novel Mr. Peanut is going to be this simple tale about a man who fantasizes about killing his wife…and who may or may not have gone through with it. But then the author, Adam Ross, throws in all these other characters and their disturbed lives. All of a sudden you are trying to keep up with multiple inner monologues from some extremely lonely characters, and puzzling over what the storylines’ connections might be.
Personally, I enjoy novels with deeply troubled characters, and I want to know everything about them. Mr. Peanut definitely delivers in this respect: Ross is an expert at putting his readers at the center of the characters’ brains and then spinning them around in circles for a few hundred pages. He makes you wish you could jump into the novel and warn the female characters about what’s coming next, and it’s all the more deliciously terrifying to read because you can’t. You can only watch, helplessly, as the characters’ marriages dissolve.
Ross draws one character and storyline from real life: Dr. Sam Sheppard, whose own murder trial inspired the television show The Fugitive (later made into two films, one of which you can get at your library). It is fascinating to watch Ross’s version of Sheppard as he falls from grace. The reader learns so much about who he was and how his life turned completely rotten. And even though you know how that plotline will end, you still almost want to shut your eyes in horror at the most terrifying parts.
But don’t! Mr. Peanut is worth keeping your eyes wide open.