Saturday, June 20, 2015

Normal by Graeme Cameron

Life is a rare gift, and we never know exactly how and why it will end.  Some fall to illness or accident, while others fall prey to killers who take down people for sport.  One of those killers is about to find himself in a very interesting predicament when a carefully planned murder is derailed by an unexpected arrival at the crime scene.  What should have been a carefully sanitised murder scene is now the scene of an invisible kidnapping - the victim carefully stowed away in a dungeon buried beneath the foundations of a garage.  The serial killer is no stranger to keeping his prey alive, but he had no plans for taking a new toy and is somewhat uncertain about what to do about the angry and defiant young woman whose life now rests in his hands.

As if that is not complication enough, he has just found a woman that truly sees him, a woman that might just be the motivation he needs to stop killing and become "normal".  It seems as thought everything is conspiring against him though, from Erica the fiery and demanding captive, to the hooker he picks up on a whim, and the life that he saves instead of ends.  His carefully compartmentalised world is slowly crumbling around the edges, he is getting sloppy and careless - and that brings the attention of the police.  A world of carefully composed order can descend into chaos in the blink of an eye, and sometimes it is the smallest of things, the tiniest details that can be your undoing.

Normal was a true surprise, a book that has delicious little twists and turns that leave you wondering where the story will take you next.  The main character is our eyes and ears, the voice we hear as the events unfold in their own time - a mixture of fear, terror, confusion, and even humour.  It becomes clear quite early on that our serial killer is well versed in his skills and that there are plenty of victims who have never been missed, let alone discovered.  He is sick and twisted, but in many ways his life is completely ordinary and normal, talked about in a completely straight forward way that makes his explanations and doings seem almost tame and boring.  

Graeme Cameron has crafted a truly guilty pleasure here, one where you know you shouldn't connect with the character and that you should be pleased every time something goes wrong, but I just couldn't do it.  A life completely ordinary and controlled spins completely out of control in a matter of months, and the moments that should feel like a victory instead feel like the rug has been pulled out from under your feet.  Normal was an exceptional debut novel for a new author with an amazing depth of character development, and a true sense of building a world and experiences that make everything feel very real.  It could also have been almost anywhere in the world - until the names of the police are mentioned in which case it becomes clear that it is set in the United Kingdom.  There is a darkness here that is creepy, engaging, and utterly believable.  Hopefully Cameron is going to introduce us to more crime and creeps because he does it very well indeed.

If you like this book then try:
  • Eeny meeny by M.J. Arlidge
  • The surgeon by Tess Gerritsen
  • One step too far by Tina Seskis
  • The postcard killers by James Patterson and Liza Marklund
  • The basement by Stephen Leather
  • The silence of the lambs by Thomas Harris
  • Level 26: Dark origins by Anthony E. Zuiker and Duane Swierczynski
  • Now you see her by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
  • Vodka doesn't freeze by Leah Giarratano
  • The postcard killers by James Patterson and Liza Marklund
  • Private Oz by James Patterson and Michael White
  • The survivors club by Lisa Gardner
  • Darkly dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay
  • Kill switch by Neal Baer & Jonathan Greene
  • The edge of normal by Carla Norton

Reviewed by Brilla

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