The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand
Elin Hilderbrand is an author I’ve seen around for some time, one of those writers I thought I would try at the right time. When I saw a copy of her newest book on Netgalley, I knew I had to request it. Apparently, this is a departure from her usual books, and this is Hilderbrand’s first mystery. So it’s only fitting that it should be the first book I read by her!
This novel centers around a wedding…and a murder. From the first page, we know that Merritt Monaco, Maid of Honor (MOH) to Celeste, our bride, was found dead on the beach early on Celeste’s wedding day. The investigation filters through the wedding party, assorted friends and family, and even Nantucket natives who have their own emotional responses to this rare suspicious death. Secrets trickle out, and we start to uncover multiple motives for the suspected murder of Ms. Monaco.
The flow of the book was so satisfying, and I felt that Hilderbrand really took the time to make each voice its own (especially the British characters). They all had their own flaws, insecurities, and values- all of which made them rich, three-dimensional people. In a scene toward the beginning of the book, the groom’s mother, Greer, a stoic Lucille Bluth-type woman, insists on offering gratuitous lobster to the mother-of-the-bride, a woman without means for whom this gesture would not be taken lightly. But she does this without a show, simply wielding her wealth to do this one kindness, without recognition. This brief snippet shows us the kind of woman Greer is, even if there is little development in her relationship with this other woman. We just get to know her a little better.
Hilderbrand is known for her use of the Nantucket landscape. I just spoke with one of my social work colleagues and realized I was having extreme summer FOMO. The use of Nantucket in this book’s setting seemed to cure it, by giving me an East Coast escape from what has been a humid, and work- filled summer. The references to the food of the Nantucket elite, the local fashion and jewelry, the salt from the beach, the warmth of the sand. This is what makes a great beach read….even when you can’t be on a beach.
Hilderbrand is a breast cancer survivor, and has acknowledged publicly that she wanted to include cancer in the book as a way to honor fellow survivors. She gives raises awareness via her hashtag #mamastrong (on both Facebook and Instagram), and makes sure to reach out to all of her readers who are cancer survivors.
As an oncology social worker, I am also sensitive to the use of cancer as a plot device in fiction. Would this alienate a patient, or is it just dropped in to create a dramatic story line for an assuming reader? Hilderbrand succeeds in this too, taking a sensitive subject and treating cancer with respect in the book- without making it boring or “preachy.”
I can’t recommend this one highly enough- bring it the beach, on your commute, on your couch- wherever. It was a much needed escape for me, and I hope it will be for you, too!
I truly can’t wait to read more of her work, so if you have any favorites, please let me know!