After I finished this book I kind of just sat there for a while. Stunned and reeling. To say that this book is disturbing would be an understatement....moreAfter I finished this book I kind of just sat there for a while. Stunned and reeling. To say that this book is disturbing would be an understatement. It is disturbing in a very obvious big way because of the subject matter but also in a very subtle and understated way because there is very little actual violence or gore on the pages.
A repressed, lonely, unstable young man, Frederick Clegg wins the lottery. Clegg has been fascinated and secretly "in love" with Miranda, a beautiful art student for quite some time. So when his aunt and cousin (who are his entire family) very conveniently depart for Australia to never return, he gradually starts putting a plan together to kidnap Miranda and keep her captive. It's a bit of a contrived set up but an easy one to swallow in the context of the book.
Clegg is a butterfly collector and classic sociopath, completely unconcerned for and unable to empathise with the feelings of others, even the object of his devotion, and with a very strong tendency to rationalise and blame others for his behaviour. Miranda is simply an object to be put on a pedestal.
"I am one in a row of specimens. It’s when I try to flutter out of line that he hates me. I’m meant to be dead, pinned, always the same, always beautiful."
Miranda's feelings and desires are as irrelevant to Clegg as those of a postage stamp to a philatelist. We are told of the preparations he makes to kidnap Miranda in a cold emotionless voice and as though most of them happened by accident without any real intent on his part.
"The van was the one really big luxury I gave myself. It had a special fitting in the back compartment, a camp bed you could let down and sleep in; I bought it to carry all my equipment for when I moved round the country, and also I thought if I got a van I wouldn’t always have to be taking Aunt Annie and Mabel around when they came back. I didn’t buy it for the reason I did use it for. The whole idea was sudden, like a stroke of genius almost."
"In one of the Sunday papers I saw an advert in capitals in a page of houses for sale. I wasn’t looking for them, this just seemed to catch my eye as I was turning the page."
"All this time I never thought it was serious. I know that must sound very strange, but it was so. I used to say, of course, I’ll never do it, this is only pretending."
Yes, I was tidying in the nude, tripped over a hoover and my penis just got stuck in the nozzle, honest.
Yet all the time the reader can see Clegg going through very thorough and meticulous preparations for what he is about to do, buying a van, a house, outfitting and securing the cellar, cutting himself off from all outside contact, trying to foresee every eventually and all of this in a remarkably detached and unfeeling way, except for some flickers of pride, a sense of achievement and satisfaction at his own work and cleverness.
Many readers appear to have felt a lot of sympathy for Clegg, yet I have to confess I never did. He does not appear able to see that what he is doing is morally objectionable and there are clearly some abandonment issues from his childhood (his father died when he was two and his mother left him to be brought up by a strict and emotionally vacuous aunt) but there is nothing particularly horrific lurking in his past, no particular trauma that might explain how he became what he is. Here's what happened but I never meant it to turn out the way it did, it's not my fault, there is nothing wrong with me is the leitmotif of Clegg's narration.
"I thought, I can't get to know her in the ordinary way, but if she's with me, she'll see my good points, she'll understand. There was always the idea she would understand. I only wanted to do the best for her, make her happy and love me a bit."
Yet this is interspersed with such obvious meaningless little lies and self-delusions that he almost reads as pathetic. Despicable as well as horrifying.
The middle portion of the book is narrated from Miranda's point of view in a form of a diary she secretly keeps. While this does cover the same time period as Clegg's narration so we effectively get two versions of the same event, I thought it was quite powerful and necessary in terms of showing Miranda as a person, with her own feelings, hopes desires and flaws.
This was a very unsettling and uncomfortable read but one that I think will stay with me for a long time. It painted a vivid and complex picture of the power dynamic between captive and captor and, though it feeds on that basic fear of evil things lurking in the dark and being powerless, unable to escape that evil, it never felt emotionally manipulative. (less)
If I had to sum up this book in one word, that word would be fun. This is not a message book or a portrayal of anything. It is just an exceptionally e...moreIf I had to sum up this book in one word, that word would be fun. This is not a message book or a portrayal of anything. It is just an exceptionally entertaining urban fantasy with a feisty queen of witty come backs heroine and a dark mysterious sex god of a hero with tortured past, no thinking required. It was precisely what I was looking for.
The heroine, Charley Davidson ("There's a certain responsibility that comes with having a name like Charley Davidson. It brooks no opposition. It takes shit from no one. And it lends a sense of familiarity when I meet clients. They feel like they know me already. Sort of like if my name was Martha Washington or Ted Bundy.") is a grim reaper. Or rather, she is the grim reaper. She sees the dead, the dead see her (apparently, she is very bright) and she helps them to cross to the other side by passing through her:
"...my job was to lead people into the light. Aka, the portal. Aka, me. But it didn't always go smoothly. Kind of like leading a horse to water and whatnot."
Charley works as a private investigator and also helps the police (namely, her Uncle Bob and her dad before him) to solve crimes (it is much easier to do that if you can ask the deceased who killed them) and every night for the past month she has been having wet dreams featuring a dark stranger who materialized out of smoke and shadows.
At the start of the book, Charley is woken up from one of those dreams and is thrust directly into a murder mystery which will lead her to several near death experiences, some discoveries about the world and her purpose in it and Reyes Farrow, a man she has only met once before but who has left quite an impression.
Charley's character is what made this book for me. She posesses that rare gift of which I am eternally jealous and appreciative. And that is humour. Charley is a hoot. And while Darynda Jones does go too far at times (Charley telling Garrett Swopes, aka Mr. tall, dark and skeptic, the names of her breasts was funny, until you realise that she is actually serious and she has named her own breasts and refers to them by their names during sex) but overall, I loved Charley and her witticisms. And I am totally looking forward to reading the other two books in the series.(less)
I needed something starting with A to read for the A to Z book challenge and this has been sitting on my shelf since I went through a frenzy of buying...moreI needed something starting with A to read for the A to Z book challenge and this has been sitting on my shelf since I went through a frenzy of buying booker shortlisted novels several years ago, back when I was still keen to impress myself and fellow commuters with my reading choices.
The books starts with a funeral of Molly Lane, a member of that happy breed of fabulous women who has a horde of ex and current lovers with all of whom she remains friends. We never learn much else about her but she is not important, since she is merely a plot device and the people who matter are the three ex-lovers who attend her funeral. Every single one of them is a self-absorbed, self-aggrandising selfish snob and they set on their course towards a resolution which is both hilarious and tragic.
I was surprised, because I enjoyed this quite a lot more than I thought I would. I settled on three stars but it's somewhere in between three and four. I didn't expect it to be funny yet it was. Not in an obvious laugh out loud kind of way but the more I think about it the funnier it is. It's a great example of an enjoyable read about despicable people and it's under 200 pages long. (less)
Ten strangers arrive on a private island just off the coast of Devon invited by a mysterious host, a dark secret is revealed about each of the guests...moreTen strangers arrive on a private island just off the coast of Devon invited by a mysterious host, a dark secret is revealed about each of the guests at the first dinner and one by one each is killed off following a children's rhyme about ten little indian boys which starts with "Ten little Indian boys went out to dine; One choked his little self and then there were nine..." and ends with "...and then there were none" of the title.
This was a little too murder by numbers for my taste. I couldn't believe in the story because life is never so neat. I did enjoy trying to guess who the murderer was but at no point could I imagine this as a real situation and, as a result, I could never fully invest myself in the story. It felt more like a puzzle than a book. (less)