Author: Graeme Cameron
Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Dark Humor
Source: Review copy from publisher
This is a love story. No, really.
He lives in your community, in a nice house with a well-tended garden. He shops in your grocery store, bumping shoulders with you as you pass him and apologizing with a smile. He drives beside you on the highway, politely waving to let you into the lane ahead of him.
What you don't know is that he has an elaborate cage built into a secret basement under his garage. And the food that he's carefully shopping for is to feed a young woman he's holding there against her will--one in a string of many, unaware of the fate that awaits her.
This is how it's been for a long time. It's normal...and it works. Perfectly.
Then he meets the checkout girl from the 24-hour grocery. And now the plan, the hunts, the room...the others. He doesn't need any of them anymore. He needs only her. One small problem--he still has someone trapped in his garage.
Discovering his humanity couldn't have come at a worse time.
We meet our nameless antihero just minutes after he has killed a young woman and is “forced” to kidnap another when she discovers him leaving the house of the victim. This new victim, Erica, he takes to his home, to the cage in his well-designed and hidden basement. The last thing he was planning was to have a new “guest”, but he is good at improvising. While getting food for his guest at the 24-hour supermarket he meets a woman to whom he feels a connection with and the surprising part is that he doesn’t feel the urge to kill her. This is a first to him. He would like to explore the connection a bit more, the only problem is he still has Erica in the cage, and if he’s honest with himself, he doesn’t want to kill her. What’s going on with him? While he’s exploring these newfound feelings that have him out of sorts, he commits other crimes. He makes a stupid mistake and now the police have him on their radar. They suspect him, but they don’t have anything on him. Unless he makes another mistake, he will be okay.
Cameron gives us a nameless psychopath, shows us front row the atrocious deeds he commits and to our surprise make us sympathize with him and even more surprising makes us root for him and wish him the happy ending he So-Not deserves.
Cameron doesn’t give us much about “our” killer, we don’t know his name, what he looks like or which job he does. He could be our neighbor, our cousin, our friend or anyone. We don’t know his motives or what tickles him. We only know he has urges that make him kill. When we think we have seen all the awful things he can possible do Cameron throws us a curveball and shows us things are even worse. Still, despise all that, he makes him a sympathetic antihero, one you can’t help but empathize with and at the end it makes you feel wrong with yourself because you end up rooting for a serial killer.
The female characters are all unique and they bring much diversity and complexity to the story. From Erica the victim who becomes much more, to Annie the understanding friend, to Rachel the girlfriend who might be more broken than our antihero, to Green, the policewoman who knows there is more than meets the eye.
I had some serious problems with the formatting of the book. I read an early copy so I’m blaming it on that. I really hope the final copy is better defined because I had trouble noticing changes of scenes; so much, couple of times I had to go back and read some pages again to understand when the change happened. But like I said, I think this was a problem of an early copy and I’m not taking this in consideration in my rating.
NORMAL is a book that should be serious and traumatic, but it is not. NORMAL is a weird book with gore galore, twisted dark humor and the perfect antihero. NORMAL is a book that will push your boundaries and will make you reconsider what you thought to be good and bad. NORMAL will make you laugh, cringe and question your sanity, because how is it possible for you to root for a killer, especially after you have seen all the things he has done and all the lives he has destroyed.
Graeme Cameron really surprised me with this debut novel. NORMAL was everything I was expecting it to be and more. I highly recommend NORMAL, just read it with an open mind and you will have hours of brilliant entertainment.
My Verdict: 4 ½ Paws
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