by Graeme Cameron
Original Publication Date: March 31, 2015
Length: 304 pages
Obtained Via: I was given an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my final opinion of the work.
View at the Traffic light:
He lives in your community, in a nice house with a well-tended garden. He shops in your grocery store, bumping shoulders with you and apologizing with a smile. He drives beside you on the highway, politely waving you into the lane ahead of him.
Discovering his humanity couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Normal tells the story of a man with a deadly and criminal hobby: murder. This book is very upfront about the story it’s telling. It’s often gruesome and horrifying and yet I couldn’t wrench myself away once I got into it. The main character of Normal is never named, never described. He is an adult male, and that’s about the only details we get. He could be anyone, but his “normal” is very different than what most of us would describe as “normal”.
Normal was a page-turning ride for sure. I didn’t put this book down once the entire time I was reading. I HAD to know what would happen. I wanted the main character to get his, of course, but I was mainly just curious as to how the story would play out. The “hiding a woman in his basement” isn’t a new thing for the main character, but this woman is different. Her name is Erica, she’s young, and she’s cunning. Over time, she slowly begins to worm her way out of the cage and into his house & life. Soon, it’s hard to tell who really has the upper-hand. She is revenge-driven and just as deadly, and man did I love reading about her.
Then, of course, there’s Rachel, the cashier mentioned in the summary. The main character wants her, but not in the same way he wants the other. He wants to spend time with Rachel, he wants her to think he’s normal, but all that’s complicated by officials looking into the disappearance of one of the women the main character has killed. There are a lot of factors in play in this thriller.
While I raced through this novel, I had some questions about it that never really got answered, mainly about the main character’s motivations. He doesn’t seem to be a psychopath in the clinical definition of the term, because he’s capable of having a conscience and emotions, though he normally pushes them down. I didn’t understand how meeting Rachel could suddenly make him start thinking differently.
There’s also the issue of why he went after the victims he did. While the main character does kill men over the course of the novel, they’re all men that are in relation to women he knows(either as victims or acquaintances). His crimes don’t appear to have a sexual motive(which believe me, I’m not complaining about), yet he only went after women. When describing potential victims in his head, he uses aesthetic but not sexualized terms. Was it a type of trophy thing for him, or did he just perceive them as being easier victims? The motivation was never entirely clear.
There were also some moments I felt asked me to suspend my disbelief a little too much. The main character never works, yet has a nice house. How? It’s never addressed where his money comes from. A police office gets involved in a physical altercation with the main character, but that’s also never addressed. I also felt Normal was going for a type of dark humor, which it sometimes achieved, but just as often missed the mark.
Normal is not a thriller for the weak-stomached. I flew through his novel with it’s repulsive yet intriguing main character, but there were times I thought it was on the weaker side. 3/5 cupcakes.