SPOILER ALERT! I’m about to describe the entire ending, so if you want to read All the Wrong Places by Joy Fielding, stop reading this blog post now.
For some reason, I’ve been reading books about serial killers lately. Must be all those postpartum hormones. Anyway, this one turned out to be really, really good, even though as I was reading it, I kept rolling my eyes because the characters were so vapid, but it was done in a way that was so ridiculous as to be almost humorous.
The story follows four characters whose lives have been affected by online dating in various ways. Our main character, 33-year-old Paige, has been using online dating sites for a long time and was recently dumped by her live-in boyfriend, causing her to live with her 70-year-old mother, Joan, who was widowed a while back and wants to get into the online dating scene. Heather, Paige’s cousin, has been her rival since she was born and serves only to be the most annoying, reprehensible character in all the books I’ve read so far this year. Finally, we have Chloe, Paige’s best friend, who has two young children and an awful, abusive husband, who has been illicitly meeting women on online dating sites.
All four of our main characters are connected by the villain, whose real name is never revealed, but who goes by “Mr. Right Now” on the many dating sites he frequents. Mr. Right Now’s idea of a fun night out is to take his date to his apartment, where he prepares her a gourmet steak dinner, then ties her up and butchers her, all the while lamenting that she did not enjoy the steak. (Gee, I wonder why??)
What made this book different from other thrillers I’ve read is that there is no mystery surrounding the villain. The reader immediately knows who he is, what he does, and why he does it. As you read, you’re supposed to be hoping that the villain doesn’t get with Paige, who is presumably the most intelligent out of all the women he’s dated (and killed). I did not find her to be particularly intelligent, but I guess all his other victims were pretty stupid… I mean, who the hell goes back to a guy’s apartment to be alone with him after the first date?* Nobody in the universe is that good looking or that persuasive, even though the author portrayed the villain to be incredibly handsome. But still… it’s a pretty dumb decision.
I thought Chloe should have been the heroine of the book instead of Paige because she managed to get herself and her children out of a terrible situation by divorcing her husband. She was the only character who had her priorities straight and didn’t sleep around, but because she had little to do with online dating (other than being on a site very briefly to snoop on her idiot husband), she would not have served the book’s purpose.
Paige annoyed me. She was supposed to be so intelligent, but she was fixated on finding another guy right after her boyfriend broke up with her. She met another guy, Sam, on the dating site, but she ended up being too immature to fully appreciate what a good guy he was. Of course, they ended up together at the end of the book because she had supposedly matured, but I would have told Sam to head for the hills… and keep running.
Joan annoyed me because she was so willing to jump on the online dating bandwagon at 70 years old because she is a “child of the 60s” and therefore very liberal about sex and love and birth control (although at 70 years old, that doesn’t matter) and what have you. I could not sympathize with her at all.
And Heather. Don’t even get me started on Heather. She was probably the true villain of the story, even more of a pain in the rear than Mr. Right Now himself. She was the true reason for the demise of Paige’s relationship with her live-in boyfriend, as she seduced said boyfriend into sleeping with her, then repeatedly rubbed it in Paige’s face. She is the stereotypical female that I personally can’t stand: obsessed with hair, shoes, makeup, and fashion, a slacker at her job, two faced, and completely narcissistic. I wonder if the author knows that if you rearrange the letters in “Heather,” you get “hate her.”
What made this book so great was the ending. Most books I’ve read recently have had disappointing endings, but All the Wrong Places wrapped up so satisfactorily that I was literally laughing out loud. To make a long story short, Paige is about to go out on a date with Mr. Right Now, which would inevitably end in her demise. At the last minute, Joan has some kind of health problem and Paige drops everything to tend to her mother. Heather somehow gets ahold of Paige’s phone, and being the annoying nitwit she is, decides to masquerade as Paige in order to go on the date with Mr. Right Now. She’s seen pictures of how handsome he is and naturally wants to steal him for herself.
The author doesn’t explicitly state it, but the book has Heather going on the date with Mr. Right Now and presumably being murdered by him. Mr. Right Now is on the verge of being caught in the middle of his serial killing activities because he’s getting sloppy out of sheer arrogance. So we can safely assume that both of our villains have been or will be eliminated shortly. Now that’s a satisfying ending, and that, along with the outrageous soap opera elements, made the book five out of five stars. Fast-paced, quality entertainment and another cautionary tale about online dating. The author knocked it out of the park. Seriously.
*Rhetorical question. Apparently many people do this, although it totally goes against common sense.