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My Lovely Wife

By Samantha Downing, Murder and manipulations lurking under the shiny exterior of a happy family life

I should start by saying that My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing is definitely not for everyone, and most definitely not for the faint of heart. It is a disturbed story from cover to cover about a couple who decides to spice up their marriage by murdering people.

Plot Summary

For the Detailed Plot Summary, click here or scroll all the way down.

In My Lovely Wife, our unnammed narrator and his wife, Millicent, are a married couple with two kids living in the upscale neighborhood of Hidden Oaks. He’s a tennis instructor, and she’s a realtor. Based on outward appearances, they appear to be a fairly normal couple, with the same financial stresses and worries about daily life as anyone else.

What separates them from others is that they both find excitement in their marriage by killing people. Their “date nights” are codewords for planning a time to plot murders, and when the book opens, they are in the process of identifying their next victim.

Book Review

I picked this up because I’d seen it around and was looking for a mystery-type novel to entertain me during a long flight I had. I’d say it only sort of fit the bill. In terms of twists and turns, there is some of that, but overall the book is more suspense-horror than mystery-thriller, if that makes sense.

This book reminded me a lot of the movie Mr. Brooks, if you’ve ever seen that. (It’s about a family man with a serial-killer alter ego. It didn’t do that well in the box office, but has decent reviews.)

In My Lovely Wife, Downing doesn’t shy away at all from her premise. Our unnamed narrator and his wife like killing people, simple as that. The main questions are whether or not they’ll get caught and whether or not they can get away with it.

The resulting book feels dark, suspenseful and relatively convincing. There is a small amount of horror and gore, but mostly the book doesn’t dwell on those aspects.

Instead, it focuses on the character development of the couple instead. Getting into the mindset of our narrator and trying to help us understand his decisions – and seeing them try to keep from getting caught — is what makes the book interesting and entertaining.

I don’t think you’ll end up relating or empathizing to the characters (at least I certainly hope not), but you’ll at least somewhat understand what they’re thinking and what’s driving them, which is about as much as you can ask for with this type of book. I think a story like this one can easily end up being nonsensical or cheesy, and Dowling does a good job of avoiding those pitfalls.

There’s a few parts that stretch the limits of credulity (such as with the involvement/assistance of the narrator’s friend), but overall Dowling manages to present a convincing, suspenseful and disturbed story.

Read it or Skip it?

Whether or not you’ll enjoy My Lovely Wife really comes down to a matter of tastes. It is a psychological thriller, but dips into the horror genre which some people may or may not have the stomach for.

For a book about murder, manipulations and suspense lurking under the shiny exterior of a happy family life, this book does it and does it pretty well.

That said, while I thought it was well-done for what it is supposed to be, but it’s also not a book I would recommend to many people. Not because it’s bad, but just because I don’t think the subject matter would suit most people. Even as someone who enjoys horror movies and thrillers, the book was still felt a bit icky for me personally.

What do you think? Is this something you’d consider reading? Or, if you’ve read it, feel free to share your thoughts!

Detailed Book Summary (Spoilers)

Chapters 1 – 8

Narrator meets Petra at a bar. He writes on his phone his name is Tobias and he’s deaf. They go back to her place and have sex. He’s not really deaf and his name is not really Tobias.

Narrator is married to Millicent. They have two middle-school-aged kids (Rory and Jenna). Millicent is the disciplinarian in the family. Narrator is a tennis instructor and Millicent is a realtor. He is going down a list of people for them to choose someone. He decides Petra is not right and is crossed off. Naomi is next. Narrator does not tell Millicent he slept with Petra.

On the TV, the news reports that the body of Lindsay, who they chose last year, has been found. Millicent was the one who disposed of the body. Narrator thought she was buried last year, but now he finds out she has only been dead a few weeks and was found in a motel, strangled.

Rory wants a video game. Rory says he knows Narrator goes out at night and cheats on their mom. He has proof — Petra’s earring. He is threatening to tell his sister if he doesn’t get his video game. Narrator agrees (though his sneaking out is mostly to scope out victims, not for cheating).

Chapters 9 – 20

Lindsay is the third person that they killed, but the first one that has been found. Millicent tells Narrator she kept her alive and strangled her because it fits the M.O. of a local serial killer (Owen Oliver) from 18 years ago who was caught but not able to be convicted. She wants them to think he did it. This way they can keep going.

Holly, Millicent’s older sister, was their first victim. Holly would intentionally seriously harm Millicent as a child. She was in a psychiatric facility for 23 years after trying to kill Millicent, and was released three years ago. She started hanging around their house after being released. Narrator killed her.

Robin was the second person they killed. She had briefly worked with Holly and saw him confront her, telling her to leave Millicent alone. She had been poking around after Holly disappeared. Millicent killed her.

Narrator was around 18-20 when Owen was active. He targeted women who lived alone. He held them captive and filed off their fingerprints. Narrator writes a suggestive letter pretending to be Owen and sends it to a reporter, Josh. Owen Riley is now all over the news. Trista, an old friend of Narrator’s and one of his tennis students, tells him she once dated Owen. Narrator uses that info for a second letter to “prove” it’s Owen. He writes (as Owen) that the next disappearance will happen on Friday the 13th.

Chapters 21 – 43

As the day approaches, Narrator and Millicent are excited and their love for each other is reawakened. They are able to forget about their financial stresses. Narrator scopes out Annabelle as a potential victim, but he learns about her and likes her as a person and decides she is not right. He settles on the previous woman, Naomi, instead.

They buy tranquilizers and on Friday abduct Naomi. Millicent deals with it from there, as Narrator doesn’t want to think about the process of keeping her as a captive for a year. However, it was Owen’s M.O. so they have to do it too. He doesn’t ask where she’s keeping her.

By Monday, Naomi is all over the news as the missing woman. Narrator sends another letter, this time with a lock of Naomi’s hair, signed “Owen”. Trisha tells him she left her husband, Andy (a childhood friend of Narrator’s). She also mentions she had been in love with Owen when they dated. A few days later, she commits suicide.

Rory is now blackmailing Narrator for money when he sees him sneaking out. Narrator is getting annoyed until he realizes what Rory really wants is for him to stop sneaking out (because he thinks Narrator is cheating on Millicent).

Jenna gets in trouble for bringing a knife to school. She says it is to protect herself from Owen. She also has been having stomach issues. She then cuts off all her hair. They take her to a child psychologist who advises them and tells them to keep her away from news about the Owen murders. They sign Jenna up for self-defense lessons, but she ends up violently hitting a boy with a rock.

Narrator wonders how Millicent is keeping Naomi alive, and puts a GPS tracker on her car to track her movements. He sees her visit a deli twice, which is unusual. He goes to the deli and sees a waitress, Denise, but nothing else. Meanwhile. a woman in the news (Jane Doe) is claiming she was attacked by Owen but got away.

Chapters 44 – 55

Narrator wants to end the Owen thing. He says it’s having an impact on the community and its too complicated. Another woman (Jane Doe #2) is claiming she was attacked by Owen as well. Millicent agrees to get rid of Naomi and Narrator will try to convince people Owen has left town by writing another letter.

Narrator catches Rory sneaking out and confronts him. He sees him with a girl at school and Jenna reveals that her name is Faith. Narrator finds a bottle of eye drops hidden in the pantry and wonders if Rory is smoking weed, but he denies it.

News breaks that Naomi has been found. However, a subsequent story breaks that Owen died five years ago. Owen’s sister said a friend reached out to her to ask her to come forward to let people know Owen could not have been responsible. The friend was Denise, the waitress from the Deli. Millicent says Denise is a client of hers.

The police are now searching for the real killer. A new detective, Claire Wellington, is brought in. Jenna is hopeful Claire will catch the killer. Another breaking news item: Underground Dungeon found in Abandoned Church.

Chapters 56 – 66

Narrator runs into Josh the reporter at a bar. He chats him up and Josh reveals an unreported tip — there are bodies buried underneath the church.

Millicent texts that she is at the hospital. Rory fell out of a window while trying to sneak out to see Faith. They meet with Faith’s parents. They also find out Jenna’s grades are dropping due to being upset about the serial killer on the loose in their town.

A message is found on the wall of the church basement. It’s written in Naomi’s blood: “Tobias. Deaf.” Narrator knows Naomi never met “Tobias” – he usually approached women that way, but he never ended up talking to Naomi. Only Millicent could have written it. Millicent reveals that she’s been tracking his car. She tells him that Lindsay told her that Narrator slept with her. Millicent has set him up for all the murders. On TV, Annabelle talks about meeting a deaf man named Tobias.

Narrator puts the GPS tracker on a semi, but won’t leave town without his kids. He breaks into Kekona’s (a client) house, since she is out of town. He asks Andy for help to get into Millicent’s laptop, saying it’s because he cheated on her.

Soon, a picture forms of this “Tobias.” Andy figures out that he’s the one they’re looking for, though Narrator assures Andy Millicent is framing him. Finally, his name and image are in the news as a “person of interest.” The bodies are identified, and it turns out Millicent killed additional people that Narrator knew, possibly out of jealously or possibly just to frame him.

Chapters 67 – Epilogue

Narrator scours Millicent’s laptop and finally finds something — research about using eyedrops to poison people. He realizes she may have been causing Jenna’s stomach issues.

He has a plan, but then Kekona gets back into town. Now he can’t go back. He goes home, planning on killing Millicent but she’s ready for him with a gun. She admits that Holly never did anything to her. Partway through the conversation, their kids walk in. Narrator convinces them he’s innocent. Rory tries to step in-between them, but when Jenna realizes Millicent is about to shoot Rory, Jenna stabs her with a knife.

Three months later, Narrator has been cleared and the whole family moves to Scotland. Narrator goes to a bar and introduces himself to a woman as a deaf man named Quentin. (In order words, he’s probably going to keep killing).

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See My Lovely Wife on Amazon.

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