BLOG TOUR- Graeme Cameron- Normal

 

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Welcome to day four of the Normal blog tour to mark the release of Graeme Cameron’s darkly witty and quirky serial killer thriller. Written in the first person, Normal is narrated by an unnamed man- a man who happens to take great pleasure, at first, in the torture and murder of young women. With his latest victim, Sarah, swiftly despatched and ready to be disposed of, his murderous plan is intruded on by the victim’s friend, Erica, who he is forced to abduct and keep imprisoned in his exceedingly well- constructed basement (used on previous occasions) whilst deciding her fate. And here the fun begins, as our killer beginning to question his own twisted inclinations, comes to realise that Erica may not be such a passive victim in the face of this particular killer…

I will quickly draw a veil over the unavoidable comparisons to Jeff Lindsay’s hugely successful Dexter series, as Normal felt so singularly British. Our killer displays a wonderfully blunt, down-to-earth and self-deprecating humour, that brought more than a few wry smiles to this reader’s lips. Indeed, such is the understated hilarity of certain vulgar observations he makes, that I found myself re-reading certain deadpan remarks, and thinking, “crikey, he really did say that!”. Cameron lightly probes the whole tenet of nature vs nurture in the killer’s mind but, as he tussles with the immorality inherent in his mental and genetic make-up, he actually comes across as rather a nice chap, which perhaps explains his ability to embark on a friendship outside of his killing impulses, with the slightly unhinged Annie. He even undertakes a romantic liaiason with Rachel, who offers some semblance of stability in his psyche, even if he does confuse her at times with a previous victim. Some reviewers have questioned this sea change in his character, and, yes, it does feel a little strange in the overall narrative. To go from a natural born killer to a man so seemingly desperate to establish a firm emotional connection with Rachel did rather hinder the final third of the book, but perhaps to be generous to the author, he was really making this a journey for the killer from his twisted normality, to his acceptance as being normal in the traditional sense of the word. I would like to think so anyway.

I tell you what else was incredibly refreshing, and set this apart from the routine serial killer fare, and that was Cameron’s portrayal of his female protagonists. I would cite the erratic Erica, eccentric Annie and feisty female detective Ali Green as the notable stand-outs. Each contribute significantly to the plot, and are central to the unravelling of our killer as the plot progresses. I think Cameron achieves a difficult balance between the inevitability of depicting violence towards women that our killer has previously engaged in, and his gauche attitude to despatching them off this mortal coil, but this is assuredly counterbalanced by the strength Cameron imbues in these three female characters. Chief among these is Erica who is a complete gem, with her potty mouth, arrogant attitude and proclivity for violence. I loved Cameron’s presentation of her disharmonious almost marital role in our killer’s life, and the moments of sheer entertainment that arose from this. Nicely done.

All in all, I really quite enjoyed this debut with its wry humour, over the top violence, and the way that Cameron continually plays with the reader’s perceptions of his characters and their actions. It made me laugh, kept me hooked, and despite the slight weakness of the final denouement , I would be happy to recommend this as a quirky thriller, and definitely way, way, outside the normal!

Graeme Cameron lives in Norfolk, England. He has never worked as a police detective, ER doctor, crime reporter or forensic anthropologist. Visit his website here

Don’t forget to follow the tour tomorrow at Rebecca Bradley Crime and Shotsmag

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The Touched Blog Tour- Guest Post- Joanna Briscoe

 

Joanna BriscoeRaven Crime Reads is pleased to welcome Joanna Briscoe , whose latest novella Touched is out now.  Joanna is the author of Mothers and Other Lovers, Skin and the highly acclaimed Sleep with Me which was published in ten countries and adapted for television.

With her new book,  Touched, Joanna has produced an unsettling and gripping tale set in a small rural community in the 1960’s. Rowena Crale and her family have recently moved into an old house in a small English village. But the house appears to be resisting all attempts at renovation. Walls ooze damp. Stains come through layers of wallpaper. Ceilings sag. And strange noises – voices – emanate from empty rooms. As Rowena struggles with the upheaval of builders while trying to be a dutiful wife to her husband and a good mother to her five small children, her life starts to disintegrate. And then her eldest and prettiest daughter goes missing. Out in the village, a frantic search is mounted – while inside the house reveals its darkest secret: a hidden room with no windows and no obvious entrance. Boarded up, it smells of old food, disinfectant – and death…

Here’s Joanna to tell us more…

JoannaBriscoe_jalden“While I was writing my fifth novel, Touched – a story with a paranormal aspect commissioned by Hammer Books – one of the elements that most fascinated me was that the humans became nastier and the unexplained presences more benign as the novel progressed.

I hadn’t planned for it to work out that way, but though the reader’s tense focus remains on unexplained smells, stains, faces half seen at windows, and an ‘imaginary friend’, what’s really going on beneath that surreal, supernatural surface is that the living, breathing humans are wreaking havoc. The criminals of the piece are the Pollards, a benign seeming couple who undoubtedly do a lot of good and are much loved, but who think they can behave outside the law.

I also set the novel in 1963, when Britain was in time warp of 1950s culture, and when children were still allowed to roam the countryside. My younger characters are allowed a freedom and independence that only a ‘neglected’ child would be granted today, and so there is space and opportunity for dark acts.

The supposedly perfect Hertfordshire village of Crowsley Beck, with its bright grass green, its pretty children and lovely cottages is the setting, and again, I wanted to explore what happens beneath the surface of such an ideal place. The novel deals with physical beauty in terms of both place and person. One of the children, Jennifer, is spectacularly beautiful, but it is that very beauty that provides her downfall.

The crossover of crime and the supernatural was an interesting one for me as a writer. While the spectral suggestions play on minds – or are created by those minds themselves – the real criminals play with actual human lives, with disastrous consequences. Beauty is power, but it can also mean that people lace their frustrated fascination with punishment, with possession, and warp its innocence. Writing Touched made me plunge into some of the darker recesses of my mind and come up with events that surprised me….”

Touched by Joanna Briscoe, published by Hammer, is now out in paperback. To find out more visit Joanna Briscoe’s website at www.joannabriscoe.com . Follow her on Twitter @JoannaBriscoe

 

 

 

 

 

March 2015 Round Up and Raven’s Book of The Month

_DSC0185 (Common Raven)As usual, a busy month of new releases- I love this time of year! In fact, so many new releases to read, that I have not kept up the pace with the reviews. However, this round-up gives me an opportunity to include a quick round-up on a theme. Inspired by the brilliant reports at Crime Fiction Lover from Marina Sofia at the Quais du Polar French crime fiction festival, I have also been reading a few French crime fiction novels this past month.

camilleHaving already waxed lyrical about Pierre Lemaitre in reviews for Alex and Irene, I can safely report that the third in the series, Camille, featuring diminutive detective Camille Verhoeven is a more than satisfying addition to the series. After the violent events of the previous two books, Camille is on more of an even keel with a new love interest, Anne, but following a brutal heist in which Anne is seriously injured, Camille’s world is rocked to its core. Is Anne all that she appears to be, and will Camille attain the happiness and satisfaction in his life and career he is seriously overdue? I found this a much more meditative read than the previous two books, and with the extreme focus on the emotional struggle Camille experiences, the book was packed with poignancy and uncertainty as to how his relationship with Anne and the implications for his long term career would play out. I felt this book did slightly lack the wow factor of the previous two, due to the change of tone, but even so Lemaitre still provides an emotionally rich and engaging crime thriller. Highly recommended.

bussiI suspect that I may be a lone voice in the wilderness but the hugely hyped After The Crash by Michel Bussi, left me distinctly non-plussed. I don’t know if this was due to my lack of emotional engagement with what I perceived as a cast of distinctly disagreeable characters, or my innate irritation at the composition of the book, using the trope of a diary as the central narrative strand. I felt unfulfilled by the plot generally, and to be honest it was a real struggle to finish this one.

I also re-read The Prone Gunman by Jean- Patrick Manchette, and discovered the delights of a previously unknown to me novella by him, Fatale. Outside of my crime reading, I am a huge fan of foreign fiction in translation, particularly  those little jewels of novellas running at less than 200 pages, so Manchette is a delight. Taut, concise, and bluntly observed, his writing is so precise and powerful that it never fails to amaze me how he so easily runs through a gamut of emotions in such a condensed form. Both books are violent, and tinged with a bleakness that is sometimes hard to stomach, but I think his writing provides a hell of a punch. Buy these and read them. You won’t regret it.

And so forwards to April, where there are a couple of blog tours coming up, and a whole host of great new releases. It’s going to be a good month! And I will be posting a review for a possible contender for my book of the year…you’re intrigued now…

Books read in March:

Mari Jungstedt- A Dangerous Game

Steve Cavanagh- The Defence

Glen Erik Hamilton- Past Crimes

SJI Holliday- Black Wood

Ben McPherson- A Line of Blood (www.crimefictionlover.com)

Luke Delaney- The Jackdaw (www.crimefictionlover.com)

Raven’s Book of the Month:

glenIt’s got to be Glen Erik Hamilton’s debut Past Crimes. As I said in my review, the split timeline, the pared down style, and the assured plot structure, was an absolute delight throughout. It’s also great to encounter a debut author, that so compliments your existing favourite authors. With shades of Lehane and Pelecanos, I think there will be more to come from Hamilton… and I can’t wait. Excellent.