Sure, any marriage can—and probably will–hit a few lows here and there. Solutions to these hard times can vary—a romantic weekend away, couples therapy or long, long talks and walks. But for Millicent and her husband of 15 years who live in a posh Central Florida suburb with their two children, the spark comes from embarking upon a shared hobby—murder.
“It didn’t start off as a murder,” says Samantha Downing, whose bestselling first novel My Lovely Wife (Berkley Trade 2020, $16) was recently released in paperback. “The first death was accidental but not the second.”
Downing’s inspiration came from a documentary about a couple who kidnapped a woman and held her captive for years.
“Finally, the wife let her go and ended up testifying against her husband,” says Downing, who has been nominated for Best First Novel in the 2020 Edgar Awards.
. “I thought you never hear about women being the instigator in these kind of situations. It made me wonder if she was, what would she be like?”
Her answer, she says, was an extreme version of the woman who has to be and do everything—a superwoman type.
“Millicent is very controlled with a crazy outlet to relieve stress,” says Downing, who grew up reading psychological and legal thrillers.
My Lovely Wife, as the title implies, is told in the voice of the unnamed husband.
“Our love story is simple,” he says by way of introduction. “I met a gorgeous woman. We fell in love. We had kids. We moved to the suburbs. We told each other our biggest dreams, and our darkest secrets. And then we got bored.”
It isn’t long before the husband longs for a return to boredom, but Millicent is on a roll and he’s along for the ride. But there are complications. When a second woman disappears, their community starts to wonder and worry. Their gilded suburb is on edge and suspicions arise. Maybe all these murders weren’t such a good idea after all.
Though the subject is edgy, surprising the story isn’t bloody or violent.
“Though the subject matter is certainly dark, it’s not gory, there’s no sex, nothing graphic,” says Downing. “I didn’t want the book to be bleak, I like satire, I wanted this to be darkly comedic and for people to enjoy the story.”
Downing seems to have her mark. Amazon Studios acquired the rights to the book and are partnering on the film version with Nicole Kidman’s Blossom Films.