Advanced reader copy received from the publisher (Harlequin) via NetGalley
Release date (UK): 9th April 2015
I’m a little unsure how I feel about this quirky, off-beat book. It’s compulsively written, witty, engaging and I pretty much devoured the entire second half in one sitting. But it’s written from the point of view of a psychotic serial killer. Not only that, it encourages the reader to empathise and sympathise with him. I laughed with him, I cried with him, I wanted him to get away with murder – and I felt a tad weird about it.
Our anti-hero – who is never named – makes no secret of what he is. In the opening scene he is calmly dismembering his latest victim, a scene he describes with cool indifference. Because for him, this is normal. And by a third into the novel, I was beginning to feel it was all quite normal too.
On his way from this first crime scene, the protagonist is interrupted by a young woman called Erica, who he impulsively decides to abduct. He takes her home, and puts her in a cage in the basement under his garage. The small issue of having a young woman confined in his basement doesn’t faze him to begin with, and he continues to go about his life as usual. He goes shopping, he visits his local bar, he stalks, kidnaps and murders innocent women.
What this writer does brilliantly is integrate the mundane, everyday events in with the dark, sinister side of the serial killer. Just as you begin to warm to the protagonist, he’ll give you a casual reminder of what he really is. “I made space in the pantry freezer, between the joints of topside beef and the waitress from the Hungry Horse.” It’s witty, it’s creepy and it’s deliciously dark.
But the murderer’s methodical world begins to unravel when he falls for a supermarket worker – the first woman it seems he has had a conversation with and not had a strong urge to maim and kill. On top of that, his latest abductee, Erica, is proving harder work than he bargained for. He begins to get “the notion that dicing a shop assistant might not help me make sense of my feelings next time.” But then, just as he begins to have a change of heart, the police turn up at his door. Could it be too little too late?
This novel is really, really clever. I never thought I would be able to empathise so much with a man who cuts up women for fun. But Cameron has created such as complex, well-drawn and entertaining character, with a blunt, self-deprecating sense of humour, it’s so hard not to love him. Whilst I knew what he was doing was wrong, some of his clever, casual observations of the world seemed so right. And, while he is certainly the centre of the novel, some of the supporting characters can’t be overlooked either. This novel could have been a sexist, masochistic mess but there’s some fantastic female characters in there too – Annie, Erica and even the Detective Ali Green were all completely unexpected, realistic and unique.
All that being said, Normal may not be for everyone. For some, the leap from cold-blooded killer to a man in love and wracked with regrets may be too much to take, and it’s something I struggled with at times. This novel is already drawing comparisons to Dexter, and I can definitely see why. Although this book completely stands in it’s own right, if you like Dexter, you will probably love this.