In Aimee Molloy’s domestic thriller, Goodnight Beautiful, newlyweds Therapist Dr Sam Statler and his wife Annie Potter make the move from New York to Chestnut Hill. They buy a roomy home and Sam is trying to build up his practice. Sam’s good looks attract almost exclusively female patients, but then Sam, a notorious lothario in his younger days, always had a way with women.
While on the surface it would seem that Sam and Annie have a lot going for them, ugly secrets fester under the surface on this shiny, new marriage. Annie, an expert in sexual role-playing, keeps Sam on the boil with her constant, unpredictable games. But Sam is wrestling with massive debt which he expected to pay off when he received the 2 million promised to him by his mother who suffers from dementia. All he needs is for her to sign the paperwork and then he gets the big bucks. The 2 mill, his mother says, is a guilt gift from Sam’s estranged millionaire father who dumped Sam and his mother decades earlier. The pressure mounts for Sam and then … he disappears.
Why do men disappear without a trace. “There was a guy from Delaware who went out for doughnuts,” I tell the pigeon. “Found him two weeks later, trying to get a face tattoo in San Diego.”
It’s hard to review this book without giving away spoilers, so this will be a short piece. No one here is what they seem. I was a considerable way into the book when the plot spun on its axis and all my assumptions were uprooted.
I was mostly annoyed by the manipulations of Gone Girl–even though I’ll acknowledge that it was a page turner. This book is packed with twists and turns but the author doesn’t withhold information as much as build narrative constructs in which we make assumptions that later prove untrue. I was ok with this device since the main characters in this book are all operating on various levels of deceit.
For this reader, the book’s pace bogged down at one point, and while I have no problem with unlikable characters (and I disliked them all), they were also uninteresting. Consequently it was hard for me to care. The sections regarding Sam and his demented mother and self-focused father were very well drawn, as are the portraits of the book’s nutjobs. But the drop in momentum caused the plot to lag.