A girl who once devoured any form of chicklit, I now actively avoid frosted book covers which show jaunty females wearing shoes that will have them walking like Quasimodo by the time they’re thirty, a cupcake in one hand a kitten in the other and a waving at a cheeky bloke-like silhouette somewhere off-centre (a good party trick if you can pull it off).
But I’ve always loved an unsympathetic main character – right from those halcyon days of A-level Heathcliff. So my reading fodder has to contain more meat than veg with a hint of deconstructed rose petal drizzle.
I’ve read a few ‘sinister’ type books lately, enjoying the clues and the red herrings and the possible culprits and the emotions and the repercussions of kidnappings, killings and disappearances. But Graeme Cameron’s “NORMAL” really is the most original piece of character writing I’ve encountered in a long while.
“He lives on your street, in a nice house with a tidy garden. He shops at your local supermarket. He drives beside you, waving to let you in to the lane ahead of him.
He also has an elaborate cage in a secret basement. The food he’s shopping for is to feed a young woman he’s holding there against her will – one in a string of many, unaware of the fate that awaits her….”
I nearly put the book down after the first chapter and not because it was boring me stupid but because of how uncomfortable it was making me feel. Because this book is written entirely from the viewpoint of the killer described above. We are inside his head. We hear what he thinks, his rationale behind what he does. We get to go shopping with him and stand awkwardly beside him when he stops to consider his next victim. We hear him chat cheerfully to other people but also hear what he’s secretly saying inside his head. It’s a terrifying and yet supremely entertaining account of how your Average (killer) Joe might actually be living – and perhaps even living right next door to you.
Graeme Cameron has done something brilliant with this character – who’s never named – which makes him the more creepy – he’s given him a personality with enough of a sense of humour to make you want to keep reading. Even though the twisted mindset at times makes you question the existence of such a person, the fact that he interacts so blindingly ‘normally’ with people he comes into contact with, can’t help but push you on to want to find out more.
The tension builds, interractions with the police are utterly convincing and the twists come from places you’d least expect. I wouldn’t say this was a character I was ‘rooting for’ but I did find myself questioning whether or not I actually wanted him to get caught.
Elegantly disturbing. 8/10