Title: The Perfect Husband (Audio CD version)
Author: Lisa Gardner; narrator Regina Reagan
Publisher: ISIS Audio Books
Read: January 15 - February 2, 2013
What would you do if the man of your dreams hides the soul of a killer?
Jim Beckett was everything she'd ever dreamed of...But two years after Tess married the decorated cop and bore his child, she helped put him behind bars for savagely murdering ten women. Even locked up in a maximum security prison, he vowed he would come after her and make her pay. Now the cunning killer has escaped—and the most dangerous game of all begins....
After a lifetime of fear, Tess will do something she's never done before. She's going to learn to protect her daughter and fight back, with the help of a burned-out ex-marine. As the largest manhunt four states have ever seen mobilizes to catch Beckett, the clock winds down to the terrifying reunion between husband and wife. And Tess knows that this time, her only choices are to kill—or be killed.
What would it feel like to be married to a psychopathic serial killer? Teresa Matthews is only 18 and from an abusive home when the handsome young police officer Jim Beckett proposes to marry her and offer her an escape from her dreary existence. Little does Tess know that soon her life is about to become a lot worse. Suffering psychological and physical abuse from her husband she is also worried that behind Jim’s covert nightly activities lies a terrible secret. As more and more young women disappear and are found brutally murdered, Tess finally musters up the courage to contact authorities, who confirm that Jim Beckett is indeed one of the worst serial killers the county has ever had to deal with. But before they can apprehend him, he wreaks terrible revenge on Tess, who barely escapes with her life.
Now, after only two years, Jim Beckett is back after murdering two prison guards and escaping the high security jail he had been confined to. Knowing that her husband will not rest until she is dead, Tess decides that she can no longer be a sitting target – for her own sake and that of her 4-year-old daughter. Instead of staying at the safe house the authorities have provided for her, she travels to the desert to hire ex-mercenary J. T. Dillon to teach her everything he knows about self-defence. When Jim finally comes for her, she intends to be ready…
The Perfect Husband is one of Lisa Gardner’s earliest books, but already shows her hallmark of creating a fast-paced thriller with lots of action, violence and a mounting body count. Personally, I am a bit divided about this book, which makes if difficult to review it. There were elements in the story I really enjoyed, such as the premise of hiring an ex-marine to pro-actively protect yourself against your abusive husband who is coming to kill you.
However, as with many of Lisa Gardner’s books, I found some things just too hard to swallow, the characters just a bit too black-and-white, and the timeline didn’t fit. Jim Beckett, the young cop-turned-serial-killer has almost superhuman powers, outwitting authorities at every opportunity and leaving behind a trail of bodies. J. T. Dillon, the posterboy of testosterone, clutches the bodies of innocent maidens to his sweaty naked chest whilst drowning his sorrows and demons in binges of tequila. And Tess, on one hand weak, helpless and abused, miraculously learns self-defence and develops a muscled body in little more than a couple of weeks – hmmmm, not sure about that one. Also, not trusting authorities to protect her, she nevertheless leaves her young daughter in their care. Being a stickler for such details, these things annoyed me, even though I reminded myself over and over again that this was purely fiction, and to be taken for its entertainment value alone. But alas, it still bugs me! The constant sexual tension / frustration between J. T. and Tess was also hard to bear, and if he had clutched her to his naked chest one more time I would have screamed! Personally, I find that going to such extremes in the good / evil stakes takes away from the suspense rather than adding to it (I found Jim Beckett more of a laughable caricature than scary), and makes the story appear clumsy and a bit contrived. But seeing the many five-star reviews out there, this is just my very personal opinion (so don’t shoot me down in flames, ok?).
This is my usual gripe with Lisa Gardner books, and despite moaning about them I still pick up her novels and generally enjoy reading them. Gardner is not afraid to discuss some very dark elements in her stories, and this one is no exception. Incest, abuse, sexual perversion, betrayal – all of Gardner’s characters are flawed in some way or another, overcoming personal tragedies which play sidelines in the larger story and add depth to their personalities. There are plenty of twists and turns, albeit very little mystery (since there is never any doubt as to who the killer is), and lots of action and violence.
If you are a fan of Gardner’s writing, the odds are that you will enjoy this one as well. The Perfect Husband is the fist book in the Quincy / Raine series, though FBI profiler Pierce Quincy only appears on the sideline.
I chose this book to cover several of my 2013 reading challenges:
- 2013 Audiobook Challenge.
- 2013 Monthly Keyword Challenge, with the word “husband” qualifying for “family”.
- 2013 Electic Reader Challenge (romantic suspense).