In an extreme take on urban noir, author Jon Bassoff rips apart the human psyche for our outraged entertainment and potential enlightenment. We get a ringside seat for the transformation of a fully-fledged psychopath. Frankie Avicious goes from being a bitter, whining, booze-bloated no-hoper with a nasty past and a penchant for lazy manipulation, into a newborn creature of low cunning and high ambition.
He’s potentially any man, stripped of all moral restraint and equipped with enough hatred and bile to leave a trail of corpses across the county. The writing is masterful in its descriptive grip and visceral impact, so the pages spin by as Avicious barrels along his own personal blood-spattered, vomit-streaked highway to hell. Subtle it’s not.
The opening chapter, which details Avicious’s everyday life as a cattle killer in a slaughterhouse, sets the tone for the rest of the book. If this is noir – and I’d nudge it further along the scale into Texas chainsaw type slasher territory – then it’s blood-red noir; noir of the truly nasty kind. There’s no redemption here, no possibility of escape for any of the bit-players, even the one or two who don’t try to stiff Avicious for their own ends.
Of course, the majority of his victims demonstrate enough unpleasant characteristics that their deaths become inevitable… if not entirely justifiable. And in a nod to modern psychology, Bassoff gives his central character all the motivation in his childhood that will lead the horribly tormented youngster to become the hate-filled tormenter in adulthood. Mind you, he does have a little help. From a familiar facilitator…
There were parts of the book which didn’t work quite so well for me, like Avicious’s near-constant boozing and puking (at that level of consumption he’d be flat out in a coma, surely?) Nor could I quite buy the consequence of his disfigurement and how he disguised it in intimate circumstances. Not massively important points, but together with the outlandish jailbreak sequence, they pushed the narrative further from the real world and into the realm of fantasy, lessening the impact of the whole.
Perhaps that’s just as well. It’s not an uplifting tale, and certainly not for the squeamish or those easily offended. A gripping read, undoubtedly, although it didn’t quite live up to the chilling sophistication of Bassoff’s excellent ‘Corrosion’.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
The Disassembled Man by Jon Bassoff is available in paperback or ebook formats