Merrimon Book Reviews

Infectious mono, peripheral smear, low power showing lymphocytosis

William Shakespeare
Author of Love's Labour Lost, quoted aat the beginning of the novel:
"Love is a devil, Thre is no evil angwl but Love."

From Merrimon Book Reviews
The Perfect Couple
The Perfect Couple by Brenda Novak
by Brenda Novak
Zoe Duncan's worst nightmare just came true.  Her daughter Samantha just disappears one day.  The police suspect that she has simply run away.  After all, evidence shows that Samantha was unhappy under the rules of her soon-to-be stepfather's home.  Zoe knows in her heart that her daughter did not run away.  She hires Jonathan Stevens, a private detective who does pro-bono work for The Last Stand, a charity in Sacramento.  Jonathan has virtually no clues.  In order to solve the case, he must peer into the private life of Zoe Duncan.  Even Jonathan can never see how close to home lie the answers.  Behind the perfect veneer of respectability, behind the facade of the perfect couple lies a twisted villain and accomplice who will do anything to get what they want.

In THE PERFECT COUPLE, Brenda Novak identifies the culprit in the spine-tingling first pages.  From the very beginning, the reader knows why Samantha disappears and the kind of terrors she might likely face.  Rather than who, Brenda Novak's suspense focuses on the motivations, the psychological demeanor of the perpetrators and the relationship that binds them to one another.  Brenda Novak punctuates encounters with chilling moments, especially in dialogue where the true meaning is quite literal but unexpected.  As Brenda Novak draws back the veneer so carefully planned, she creates a terrifying portrait of obsession and love turned corrupt and ever so twisted, so twisted that little else matters.  Perhaps even more chilling are the similarities between Tiffany and Zoe.  Rather than painting a black and white portrait of the saintly mother and the evil neighbor, their similarities truly haunt as one comes to see the extreme degree on the spectrum of a woman driven to do anything for love.  Likewise, Brenda Novak's THE PERFECT COUPLE is all the more satisfying because she resists the temptation to juxtapose Jonathan and Anton, making one all good and one all bad. 

Nevertheless, the intricate plot details sometimes take over at the expense of the excellent characterization as seen in this author's Dead series (DEAD GIVEAWAY, DEAD SILENCE and DEAD RIGHT).  Quite simply, many of the details must be glossed over in order to follow the plot action smoothly but these are exactly the details,especially those concerning the circumstances of Samantha's birth, that distance a reader from the characters and make them and the later developments less believable.   Perhaps it can be excused in the sense that Zoe herself has not faced her past, and yet since this book is written in third person narration rather than first.   A few more details might clue a reader more into emotional believability of Zoe as well as Samantha's father.  The level of victimization and degradation described here is so overwhelming that THE PERFECT COUPLE would have more impact if the emotional dynamics were as finely tuned as is typical with this author.  In addition, the ending lacks the transformative element, romantic or otherwise, that brings her characters from the darkness of evil into a redemptive moment at least as equivalent to the horrors her characters have experienced and seen in some of the author's earlier romantic suspense.  Since THE PERFECT COUPLE is the first book of The Last Stand Series (followed by THE PERFECT LIAR and THE PERFECT MURDER), yet indirectly tied to her previous series (TRUST ME, STOP ME, and WATCH ME) through the Last Stand, it may very well be that the author is saving this aspect, choosing to develop it over the course of the series. Despite this, THE PERFECT COUPLE is a fast-paced enjoyable read that is hard to put down based on the plot twists and turns.

THE PERFECT COUPLE is an action-packed chilling work of romantic suspense that looks into the terrifying dynamics of love, a love twisted by obsession and hiding in plain sight under a veneer of perfection.  Just when a reader thinks they have seen the worst, Brenda Novak reveals an even more sinister possibility.  From the harrowing beginning to the last moments, Brenda Novak ramps up the chilling details of the crime as one deed spirals into more and more consequences for the perpetrators and the victims.  THE PERFECT COUPLE is a good choice for readers wanting a glimpse into the possible dynamics underlying some of the headline news of past years and the start to a promising new trilogy based on The Last Stand.

Publisher: Mira (June 2009)
Author website
Series: The Last Stand
Other books in the Series: The Perfect Liar, The Perfect Murder

Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews
Review Courtesy of Amazon Vine
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