By Tina Jordan
Updated June 16, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT

This story of a marriage, played out in flashbacks, is one of the most hyped novels of ?the summer — and for the life of me, I’m not sure why. Mr. Peanut is told in alternating chapters by David Pepin and by Ward Hastroll, the police detective assigned to investigate Pepin after his wife, Alice, is found slumped on the kitchen floor, dead of anaphylactic shock (an offending peanut still wedged in her throat). Though Pepin argues that Alice — who long battled obesity and depression — took her own life, Hastroll isn’t buying it, especially once he finds a link to a notorious hitman.

The look back at the Pepins’ relationship will feel authentic to anyone who’s endured the knocks and scrapes that come with a long marriage. But the book fails completely as a police procedural. Adam Ross, it’s clear, doesn’t know the first thing about murder investigations, so the Hastroll chapters — muddied by a bizarre subplot involving the cop’s wife — ?are compromised from the beginning. It’s as if there ?are two books here when there should be just one. C

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