Normal by Graeme Cameron

I rarely choose crime thrillers, but was given the opportunity to read ‘Normal’ by http://www.netgalley.com and Harlequin Mira. Given that I protest its not a genre I usually enjoy, Graeme Cameron’s intelligent and precise writing may just make me out to be a liar!

‘Normal’ opens with the protagonist carefully cleaning up, having murdered and dismembered Sarah in her own home, and follows as the protagonist’s life becomes more and more chaotic leading to a mesmerising conclusion.

At no point are we given the protagonist’s name, or any real detail about his appearance which adds to the psychological effectiveness of Cameron’s book. If we don’t know who he is, he could be the man next door, or the one on the bus, or a member of our own family. Many of the characters are deeply flawed, but equally plausible so that we are left questioning what we really know about anyone. I would have liked a little more detail about the main character’s past to give me a better understanding of his present behaviours, but I appreciate that this was probably a deliberate technique to keep the reader guessing.

Written in the first person, the style is incredibly conversational and often quite humorous, at times making the reader feel they are truly inside the murderer’s head. The technique of interspersing direct speech with the protagonist’s thoughts was scarily good, making the reader have the thoughts at the same moment. This has the effect of almost making the reader become the murderer. At times I found myself almost liking this monstrous person.

Once or twice I felt the plot was a little fractured and had to check back over what I’d read, but I found the structure of leaving a cliff hanger at the end of so many chapters gave ‘Normal’ a vibrancy and engaged me as a reader almost against my will. As the end of the novel approached, so did my heartbeat and my desire to see how it ended.

The descriptive writing was concise and often quite poetic giving a vivid, cinematic view of the world of the novel.

I may not be a fan of crime thrillers, but Graeme Cameron’s highly charged and tautly written ‘Normal’ might make me a convert.

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