I finished reading Adam Ross’s novel Mr. Peanut over a week ago, and I’ve been beating myself up over whether or not to write a review. As regular visitors will know, I only publish reviews of novels that I would recommend other people should read. Mr. Peanut left me in a bit of a quandary, in that to me at least, it ran a fine line between brilliant and annoying.
The book is certainly rather different from the norm, and could be said to sit across multiple genres. It is not your typical crime novel, and neither does it sit perfectly comfortably in the literary fiction section. After letting myself ruminate on it for a few days however, the elements that slightly annoyed me began to fade in importance, and my remaining impression is one of a somewhat unusual, but very intelligently and absorbingly written piece of fiction. Will it be to your own taste though?
Read on for a full review…
I find reviews of crime novels are probably the trickiest of all to write. Plot spoilers are a curse in any book review, but in a crime novel review they can easily kill off the very point of reading the book for yourself. Mr. Peanut is not purely and simply a crime novel, but since it forms an important element in its structure, I will keep this review strictly at a high level to avoid any chance of ruining it for you.
The criminal elements are a clever and complex mix of a crime, an investigation, crimes by the investigators, and, just for good measure, a fictional crime work. Did I mention this was complex? What raises this novel above the ordinary though, is that throughout, these elements are used as a backdrop to intricately explore and investigate human elements such as love, marriage and betrayal, in a way that is much more typical of literary rather than crime fiction. The way in which it lays bare some of the more uncomfortable or unpalatable aspects of how we control and entrap those who are nearest and dearest to us, is both brilliantly observed, and it has to be said, at times less than comfortable to read.
As I mentioned in the introduction to this review, certain elements of Mr. Peanut did irritate me slightly. At times, it almost gave me the feeling of a much simpler and straightforward novel, which had been cut and shuffled to add an extra layer of depth and intrigue. All fiction manipulates the reader to some extent, but if you get the feeling you are being “worked-over” then possibly things have been overdone slightly by the writer. Complexity just for the sake of it perhaps?
My other criticism was that even at a very average 352 pages, this novel felt overly long. The mid-section was rather drawn out, and I felt certain underlying elements of the theme were being somewhat laboured.
Other than the niggles outlined above, this novel is skillfully crafted, and for the most part, beautifully written. It received widespread critical acclaim following its U.S. release, and if you are looking for something that is slightly offbeat and at times demanding to read then this could be just the book for you. However, be warned, judging by other reviews, it appears to divide opinion in a “love it or hate it” fashion, so it certainly won’t suit everybody’s taste!
Already read Mr. Peanut? What did you think of it? Please post a comment below, Novel Suggestions is always keen to hear your opinions.
Novel Suggestions only provides fiction book reviews of books that we personally recommend. We don’t spend our valuable time writing reviews of books which we feel would be a waste of your valuable time!