Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Review of I Love You More by Jennifer Murphy

Jennifer Murphy’s debut novel I Love You More, released on June 17 of this year, is a well-written mystery about love, conspiracy, and deception. Absorbing if not intensely gripping, this novel is a solid choice for a summer read for those who like a story of psychological suspense.

Publisher’s Summary: (I decided to include the publisher’s summary here rather than write my own… Easy way out, maybe. But this way, I hope, I don’t risk getting overly spoiler-ish!) Picasso Lane is twelve years old when her father, Oliver, is murdered at their summer beach house. Her mother, Diana, is the primary suspect—until the police discover his second wife, and then his third. The women say they have never met—but Picasso knows otherwise. Picasso remembers the morning beautiful Jewels showed up at their house, carrying the same purse as her mother, and a family portrait featuring her father with two strange boys. Picasso remembers lifting the phone, listening to late night calls with Bert, a woman heavily pregnant with Oliver's fourth child. As the police circle and a detective named Kyle Kennedy becomes a regular fixture in their home, Picasso tries to make sense of her father's death, the depth of his deceit, and the secrets that bind these three women. Cunningly paced and plotted, I Love You More is a riveting novel of misplaced loyalty, jealousy, and revenge.

My Thoughts: I read a small number of mysteries or psychological thrillers every year. They fall outside of my usual genre choices (typically literary fiction and historical fiction), but periodically I do find myself intrigued by the premise of a mystery or thriller. “One man, three wives, the perfect murder”—yep, I have to admit the publisher’s marketing had me itching to give the book a try.

I found I Love You More to be a good, if not completely gripping, read. It’s well-paced and a strong debut for Murphy. Murphy uses different points of view, both before and after the murder, to good effect. The chapters written from the perspective of Picasso are particularly compelling; Murphy gets the voice of this precocious girl, who carries a few of her cunning father’s traits, exactly right.

A few plot twists and characters struck me as overly implausible, and I didn’t like the use of the collective perspective of “the wives” (when the three women seemed like very distinct characters to me). I did not anticipate the ending, although I suspect more frequent readers of mysteries might find it easy to do so.

So many books were—erroneously, even ridiculously—compared to Gone Girl after the runaway success of Gillian Flynn’s novel two years ago. But I Love You More, if not as intensely suspenseful and unsettling as Gone Girl, will likely appeal to fans of Flynn, as well to fans of Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series.

I rate I Love You More three out of five stars.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, Doubleday Books, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. As always, the views expressed here are my own.

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