This complex indie thriller highlights the dilemma which faces so many debut authors. Write something stylish, provocative, imaginative and challenging and you may never connect with an audience who would appreciate it. Write a Jack Reacher clone or a domestic drama gussied up as a ‘psychological thriller’ and you stand a better chance of selling some books.
But if the former could find an agent and be promoted by one of the big five publishing houses then it could easily stacked up on the ‘contemporary literature’ shelf, entered for obscure awards and gushed over by the self-perpetuating clique of mainstream media critics.
Killer’s Bible kinda falls into this category. It’ll be too difficult for many casual readers; a seriously twisted stream of consciousness. Imagine American Psycho meets Dexter… sort of. Only it’s darker than Dexter, a veritable torrent of black-hearted bile.
This ambitious ‘memoir’ takes us inside the mind of a hopeless inadequate, a go-nowhere lawyer working in a small town on tedious cases of no consequence for his family firm. Fuelled by his self-loathing, his frustration and rage build to the point where his meticulously constructed form of self-harm no longer contains them, and he lashes out when ‘The Surge’ can’t be suppressed any longer.
Told in the first person with a seemingly random timeline, it’s hard to know what’s real and what’s fantasy in Calvin’s world. He claims to have murdered his older brother, beats up on a teenager at the mall and seethes with unrelenting rage at the average joes who surround and oppress him. But Calvin crumbles whenever he’s called out by his colleagues or rivals. To them he’s a weirdo, hostile and unpredictable – and their interactions revolve around necessity, disgust, curiosity and sympathy.
The author evokes a genuinely unpleasant atmosphere that permeates his protagonist. Calvin feels unclean, tawdry and sleazy; a profound misanthrope, scornful of everyone he encounters. He can’t relate to anyone on a personal level and is the very definition of sexual frustration. He continually misinterprets his interactions with women, objectifies his female colleagues, and perceives his assistant only in an erotic context.
If you’re looking for a conventional narrative, a coherent plot with a mystery and a resolution – well, you won’t find it here. The finale is frustratingly ambiguous; if this book starts in the middle then it ends in the middle as well. At times the hectoring, self-indulgent monologue becomes tiresome and repetitive – but there’s an irresistible thread of intrigue which kept me coming back to the narrative.
One really irritating point: the author uses far too many exclamation marks. He needs to write without any !! whatsoever, to make his words do the work! Otherwise it’s like reading text-speak from a pissed-off adolescent! All impact is lost after the first half-dozen repeats! See what I mean!!!
One thing is certain; after reading this you’ll never be sure about what’s going through the mind of any lawyer you may meet…
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
Killer’s Bible by Calvin Loch is available at Amazon