Ever since I started blogging, Elin Hilderbrand’s novels have been one of my summer staples. She writes fantastic beach reads, and every year, I look forward to her latest title on the publisher’s list. I’ve never been to Nantucket, but if I ever do vacation there someday, it’ll be in large part because of how perfect for a summer vacation the place seems in Hilderbrand’s novels.
The Perfect Couple is the first mystery/thriller I’ve read from Hilderbrand, and I absolutely loved it. Hilderbrand’s strength has always been her characters and their (often messy) relationships with each other, and she plays this strength to the hilt in this mystery. Despite the police investigation, the identity of the killer felt almost secondary to all the family and friendship dynamics going on. Like with all Hilderbrand books, I was fully caught up in the story and the characters, and I was curious about the murderer’s identity mostly because of the additional insight it would give me to one of the characters.
In The Perfect Couple, a lavish wedding is planned in Nantucket. The bride, Celeste, is a shy and awkward science nerd who works at a zoo. She agrees to a quick wedding mostly because her mother Karen has breast cancer and only months to live. The groom, Benji, is a trust fund baby who introduces Celeste to a glittery new world. His mother Greer is a mystery novelist who takes over the wedding planning so it’s done just right. The morning of the wedding, a body washes up on shore — it’s Merritt, the maid of honour who happens to have recently had an affair with a member of the wedding party. The best man, Shooter, is also missing, and Chief of Police Ed and his super hot Greek detective Nick must interview all the people involved in the wedding to get at the truth.
The result is like Agatha Christie meets Days of Our Lives. The whodunnit element is deliciously intertwined with the soapy details of the characters’ lives. Flashbacks during a mystery often leave me just impatient to get back to the present-day, but in this case, I found the flashbacks at least as strong as the present-day scenes. I was caught up in all the backstories amongst the characters, and in how they intersected with each other at various times and in various ways. Hilderbrand does a great job in signalling to us when things aren’t quite how they seem, and even when characters make reasonable assumptions about each other (e.g. Greer thinking their family friend Featherleigh is having an affair with her husband Tag), we can tell there’s something else going on that Greer hasn’t quite guessed yet.
I had so much fun reading this book, and I’m only sorry it had to end, as I wanted to see what happens next with these characters. There’s a niggling (minor) loose end about Karen’s health at the end of the book that part of me wishes had been resolved, but on the other hand, I’m equally happy to continue believing it’s a sign of hope. The answer to the mystery turns out to be sadder than I imagined, but it’s also very fitting given who these characters are and what they want to happen.
Overall, Hilderbrand once again proves why her books are such a fantastic summer staple for me. This is a great story to lose yourself in — preferably on a beach, by the water, as you once again treat yourself to a few hours with the rich and glamorous residents of Hilderbrand’s Nantucket.
Thank you to Hachette Book Group Canada for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.