Wow. Where to start with this one? The title may be ‘Normal’ but this book is anything but. I have read a lot of crime, thrillers and psychological thrillers this year. And I do mean A LOT. This one stands out from the crowd for a variety of reasons, not least because it’s the only one I’ve (ever?) read written from the point of view of the killer himself…
So what’s it about?
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 into the lane ahead of him.
He also has an elaborate cage in a secret basement under his garage.
The food he’s carefully 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.
This is how it’s been for a long time. It’s normal…and it works. Perfectly.
But this time it’s different…
If you like your thrillers neat and tidy this is probably not the thriller for you. But if you like your thrillers dark, twisted and truly nasty then you need to get your hands on a copy of this book. Mr Cameron has the most amazingly disturbed imagination – and I love him for it! Reading about women viewed and treated as commodities in the worst possible way is never going to be comfortable. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t gripping. Perhaps ‘fascinating in a completely sick way’ just about sums it up.
Amongst the gore though, rather unexpectedly, this book is also incredibly funny. OK, so it’s (unsurprisingly) a very dark humour but it really did have me chuckling aloud at times. The author’s ability to combine the most gruesome details in the most matter of fact way is original and utterly brilliant: ‘An unprecedented calm enveloped me as I made space in the pantry freezer, between the joints of topside beef and the waitress from the Hungry Horse’.
The story is incredibly jarring from start to finish. Just when you’re wondering why you’re laughing when all around you is death our unnamed, unfeeling, psychopath protagonist (and I won’t even start on my analysis of the reasons for the anonymity) falls in love. Or at least, he meets a woman that he doesn’t immediately want to torture and murder. Is it love? Read it and let me know what you think. In any case, I totally didn’t see that one coming. Which of course is precisely the point.
This book is first and foremost about manipulation – both of people in general but also of the reader. Somehow or other you actually end up wanting nothing more than the redemption of this monster. Seriously, it’s brilliantly done. I was left with a hundred questions running around in my head – and serious questions too about society, stereotypes and perception. It’s probably the only time you’re going to want to thank someone for manipulating you. ‘Without fail, when the door is finally opened, they beg me to let them stay because in their hearts, they know that they’re safe in the cage’.
Aside from our killer, there are some impressively drawn female characters for us to get our teeth into too. Annie and Erica were my personal favourites but I won’t ruin things by going into detail of how and why. You’ll just have to read it, won’t you?
In the hands of a less skilled writer this would just be a fairly sick serial-killer story – and that would be fine. It would probably still sell. But it is so much more. Graeme Cameron has managed to create a niche in probably the most popular fiction genre at the moment. Top marks Mr Cameron! I’m almost scared to see what you come up with next…
‘The truth is I hurt people. It’s what I do. It’s all I do. It’s all I’ve ever done. I’m not… normal’.