Sent to me by Penguin – Michael Joseph in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: 27/07/17
Publisher: Penguin – Michael Joseph
Format: Hardback, 432pp
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Summed up in a word: Commitment
It isn’t very often that I read a book so intense that it invades my dreams… The Marriage Pact broke that barrier and plagued me even during my precious slumber. The Marriage Pact is a brilliant psychological thriller with a huge serving of What The F**k!?! to go with it. I was truly blown away by this novel, Michelle Richmond is a true master of escalation (and dropping curve balls no one could see coming!), and her writing is nail-bitingly intense. I have been talking about this book to everyone one I can! Being a married man this fascinated me (and scared the hell out of me too) no end and I was amazed by the lengths ‘The Pact’ would go to preserve the institution of marriage between its members. This is being made into a film and I know it is going to be fantastic, check out my full review below.
It’s the perfect wedding gift.
Newlyweds Jake and Alice are offered membership of a club which promises members will never divorce.
Signing The Pact seems the ideal start to their marriage.
Until one of them breaks the rules.
Because The Pact is for life.
And its members will go to any lengths to ensure nobody leaves . . .
I think Michelle Richmond may have just established herself as my top psychological thriller writer of all time. The concepts explored in this novel are so chilling and hair-raisingly intense that I am still reeling from it all. Being a married man, I was instantly intrigued by this novel and its forceful perspective on the idea of marriage (yes the word marriage is going to appear A LOT in this review). Michelle Richmond is an exceptionally talented writer who has developed this story with precision to deliver constant shocks and thrills throughout her latest novel all the way to the exciting conclusion.
The story follows Jake Cassidy and his new wife Alice. The story is told directly from Jake’s perspective throughout the entirety of the novel which I find quite a rare choice in a psychological thriller but it works really well to enhance the anxiety and sense of fore-boding. Jake and Alice are somewhat tricked into joining The Pact when a high profile client at Alice’s law firm sends them an invitation to join this secret cul… I mean club as a wedding present. They see it as romantic, a way of acknowledging their love for each other on another level and how they have moved into a new chapter of their lives. They fail to acknowledge the true depth of the literature they are given, the warnings and the alarm bells that are ringing in the back of their minds.
The plot follows Jake and Alice’s ill-advised and all-consuming descent into the secret society and its powerful ways. The Pact believe that the institution of marriage should be governed (and protected) by a system akin to the British legal system to ensure that members are fully committed to each other beyond all odds. Failure to adhere to The Pact’s rules will result in infractions, misdemeanours and felony level punishments. Yeah! This is a hardcore novel. I found myself intrigued by the notion of another level of commitment, then shocked, then worried and by the end my skin was crawling all over.
Jake is a therapist who works with a wide array of clients and Alice is a lawyer in a top class firm. They both have vitally important careers and, though they are truly committed to each other, their careers are taking off. When Alice is summoned to a meeting with a Pact member and slapped with a GPS bracelet for not being home in time for dinner consistently, Jake wants out. But when the couple are told there is no escape and that they just need to make peace with The Pact and live with their rules, Jake pushes the boundaries to breaking point and there are severe consequences. The plot only gets more intricate and mind-blowing from there. MR’s themes of psychology and cult dynamics are fantastic and she really puts the idea of marriage to the test.
This is a seriously well developed novel. Michelle Richmond is constantly evolving her narrative, adding in new elements and not letting the reader settle into any sort of groove before adapting the atmosphere or tone to another alarming scenario. Jake is a quality main character, he is a caring and dedicated man who is deeply conflicted. He knows he loves Alice more than she loves him. He has wanted marriage for so long and Alice is a wildcard that loves adventure. When The Pact begin to intervene with Alice’s non-committal behaviour, he begins to enjoy the wife that they are making out of her, but he knows that it shouldn’t be that way. I like Jake and I think MR’s choice to set the whole story around him was a smart idea.
The element I loved the most and had the biggest problem with at the same time was the plot. MR is a mastermind when it comes to a bold, disturbing and memorable story. I cannot wait to read more of her work. My problem was that it got too intense, even for me. (Spoilers Ahead) There was a point when Jake is taken away from his home and thrown in marriage prison and tortured for information, it just turned my stomach a tad too far. (Spoilers Over) Though I guess I won’t forget it for quite a while. My other issue was the conclusion of the story. In my own opinion, though the ending makes sense, I felt that it could have been a bit more explosive. That was only the last ten percent of the book though and the other 90 percent was a wild ride. I couldn’t recommend this book enough, if you can stomach it.
I have given The Marriage Pact 4.5/5 because it is a great novel that has the potential to be a perfect one. I have a few reservations about the intensity and how the finale panned out but they are my own personal tastes, I am sure others will agree with the outcome more than I did. MR’s writing is what made this book special to me. MR is clearly an exceptional author who deserves all the praise she gets. I am excited to read more of her work and watch the film when it comes out.
About Michelle Richmond
Michelle Richmond is the New York Times bestselling author of five novels, including THE YEAR OF FOG, and two award-winning story collections. Her books have been sold in 28 languages. A native of the Gulf Coast, Michelle lives in Northern California with her husband and son.
Bio taken from Michelle’s personal website: michellerichmond.com