Reviewed by Jody Uy
MY LOVELY WIFE
By Samantha Downing
374 pages. Penguin.
I am rarely ever this shookt (please excuse the informal language) by a book.
I’ve always been something of a scaredy cat since I was younger—covering my eyes at the bloodier and gorier scenes of a movie or TV series (aka CSI), and begging my older sister to accompany me to the comfort room at nighttime. I don’t normally read suspense thrillers or psychological crime stories, so you might want to take this entire review with a grain of salt too. Because of my irrational fear of murderers and crime, I’ve always steered clear of the thriller section in the bookstore. This book, however, has made me seriously reconsider this decision to avoid all things murderous and suspenseful.
I remember picking up My Lovely Wife and reading the summary at the back. It didn’t give anything away about the story (like some summaries do) but drew me in with its seemingly simple but intriguing premise. The author lays out the basics for us plain and simple: there’s a couple, married and in love. They have two kids, stable jobs, and a nice home. They’re your usual friendly neighborhood husband and wife pair. Everything about them is normal—except that their hobby involves homicide.
A killer couple
Right off the bat, we meet the husband who makes up half of the murderous duo. He is someone who loves his wife dearly—always eager to please her, and afraid to anger her. He works as a tennis teacher for the wealthy residents of their town and tries his best to be a good dad. We watch the thriller unfold through his eyes and are given access to his thoughts, hopes, and anxieties too.
His wife Millicent, on the other hand, is the picture of a strong independent woman. She lays down the law at home while working day in and out to help provide for her family as a real estate agent. She doesn’t hesitate in making decisions, and similarly never wavers as they carry out each act of gruesome murder.
Apart from a chilling suspense, the novel is a clear picture of the husband’s psychological meanderings. Downing gives insight into a man who finds pleasure in killing, but also struggles to be a good father to his children. It’s this internal struggle that I find most intriguing about the book. We’re made to ask what exactly makes a person “evil” or “good” and examine how people deal with these two opposing but integral parts of what make us human.
The story seamlessly ties together past and present, as the husband recalls important events from their time together while dealing with his current problems. The weaving in and out of timelines doesn’t get confusing, but rather pushes the story further and faster as it reaches the inevitable climax. Downing effectively moves the plot forward, while also revealing deeper and darker secrets from the couple’s past.
Aside from the masterful telling of the story, I loved how every little detail—whether object, person, or event—is written into the novel purposefully. Bombs are carefully tucked in and hidden at the beginning parts of the book that later explode catastrophically in a carefully timed sequence—the same way that fireworks do on New Year, except with much more menace. The reader is left in equal parts awe and devastation as revelation after revelation unfolds relentlessly. At one point, I stopped reading and went to find my brother just to express how shocked I was at the sudden turn of events.
Samantha Downing’s My Lovely Wife is a book that is deceptively simple, hiding sinister plots and unexpected twists in its pages. For readers into exciting books filled with suspense, this psychological thriller is definitely worth your time. It’s a novel that keeps you guessing and wondering what’s lying in wait for you (dead body, sensual kiss, missing person, eye drops, bloody knife) after you turn the next page.
My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing is available at Fully Booked branches and Fully Booked Online.
Jody is currently an undergraduate student taking up Education and is discovering everyday the greatest bits about reading and learning that fuel our thinking. When she’s not drowning in readings for class, she drowns herself in music, books, and the wonders of the Internet. You can find her on Instagram @ohfishness.
[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fully Booked. Then again, we love our authors anyway.]