Audiobook Review: My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Thriller, Suspense
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Penguin Audio (March 26, 2019)
Length: 10 hrs and 13 mins
Lately, I’ve been trying a new routine of following up disappointing reads with a thriller. As a genre, I find that they typically make for good palate cleansers, and as an added bonus they are usually fast-paced and addictive, giving me that much needed boost after a “blah” read to prevent slumps.
Which brings me to My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing, which was exactly what I needed in my life. In fact, it did its job and more. When I first started this audiobook, all I’d hoped for was a standard psychological thriller. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting all that much, maybe something similar to the current crop of novels with a few variations on the same premise repeated over and over. Boy, was I surprised.
What I got instead was a completely brilliant, completely bonkers and clever psy-thriller of domestic suspense unlike any other I’ve read before. The official blurb described this one as “Dexter meets Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and I’ll let you decide how accurate that is. At the center of this story is a married couple, our unnamed protagonist and his wife Millicent, who have been married for fifteen years. Like many couples who have been together this long, they believe they’ve found the key to their marital bliss. But while some folks like to spice things up with surprise gifts or a naughty weekend, this husband-and-wife pair likes to put the spark back into their relationship by committing murder together.
Yep, you heard that right, though with the exception of their homicidal tendencies, our protagonist would have you believe he and Millicent are just like any normal average couple. They live in a great house, with two wonderful kids. He teaches tennis at the posh country club, while she sells real estate in their affluent neighborhood. As with all families, they have their secrets hidden behind closed doors and decisions made in the past that have come back to haunt them, even if theirs are more twisted and depraved than most.
More than this I’m reluctant to reveal, because as the saying goes, the less you know the better, and this absolutely applies to My Lovely Wife. The mindfuck starts right away as the first few chapters will have you second-thinking all your predictions as quickly as you make them. As I soon discovered though, pretty much every time I thought something felt clichéd, it managed to never turn out the way I thought it would.
This story is told from the perspective of Millicent’s husband, who is under no illusions that he’s married to a complete psycho. But the best part about this book is that you can’t take anyone at face value. As deeply as you might sympathize with him or as much as he might endear himself to you, our protagonist is no saint himself, no matter how hard he tries to sell us on his “meek husband” persona. He gets off on the idea of murder just as much as his wife, and worse, he does nothing to rein in her even darker appetites.
But the genius of this novel, and what Samantha Downing does so well, is giving the impression of the sheer normalcy of it all, even when you know in your heart just how messed up everything is. At the heart of this tale is a couple who is completely devoted to their family. On birthdays and anniversaries, they would go that extra mile to make the day special for their loved ones. During hard times, they scrimped and sacrificed to make ends meet. And as the kids grew older, there were the usual doctor’s appointments, soccer games, golf lessons. Millicent insists on only cooking organic. No cellphones or any electronics at the dinner table. The family will sit down to a movie night at least once a week. It’s all so domestic it almost makes you want to puke.
But of course, there’s that whole serial killer couple thing. In large part, this book is driven by the mystery behind the nature of the protagonist and his wife’s relationship. We’re also trying to figure out Millicent, who’s an enigma even to her husband. Like all couples, they have secrets they keep from each other, but even knowing this did not prepare me for all the shocks and thrills thrown at us towards the end of the book. Good luck putting it down at this point. I know I couldn’t.
All in all, My Lovely Wife was a fantastic read. Believe me, if I thought I could get away with praising this amazing debut without giving away too much, I would have written a whole lot more extolling its insanely fun and addictive plot and phenomenally developed characters. So instead, I’ll keep it simple: if you’re looking for a binge-worthy psychological thriller that stands out among the rest, you need this book in your life.