Normal: not by a long way

NormalThis is an extremely cleverly-constructed first person narrative, told from the perspective of a psycho serial killer who in many ways resembles a certain Dr Lecter. But this guy lives in England (even though he spells tyres with an ‘I’) and flirts less with authority while he wields the knife, strangles the spark of life, and experiments with culinary alternatives afterwards.

All of this could be simply repellent or aggressively unpleasant if clumsily written – but here it’s creepily entertaining, occasionally startling and full of drily witty observations about modern suburban society which kinda explain why anyone would take to extreme violence as an almost acceptable response. The storytelling is extremely skilful – it’s not easy to relate events in the first person and surprise your audience almost every chapter. But that’s what happens as we follow the protagonist’s curve of personal development. When one kill doesn’t go quite as planned he starts to deviate from his accustomed course of action… and no matter how cleverly he then attempts to outwit the flatfoot officers of the law, his own inclinations conspire against him.

The result is a long way from a normal novel, but it’s a wickedly enjoyable one. The killer never stops to justify who he is or what he does. He’s obviously smarter than the average bear and we’re treated to a slew of witty one-liners and arch observations throughout the book. There is also a plot – although it has to be said that it’s less important than indulging the central character’s foibles – which pushes the pages along in the final third of the book.

This could so easily have been tawdry, low-life, exploitative hack-n-slash pulp fiction. Instead it’s mature, sometimes explicit, inventive and risky story-telling from an unusual perspective. If you typically relate to the girl-next-door character then it’s unlikely to appeal to your sensibilities. But if you enjoy exploring the darker side of the human psyche – and see what strength it conceals in the most desperate of circumstances – then give this a whirl. Take your sense of humour with you.

8/10

Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason

Normal by Graeme Cameron is available as an ebook and paperback

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