He lives in your community, in a nice house with a well-tended garden. He shops in your supermarket, 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.
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.
Oh, she’s knows what fate awaits her.
Normal by Graeme Cameron is an interesting twist on the sympathetic serial killer story. Our main character has no name and no physical description, and that is purposeful. He could be anyone. He’s no one you would necessarily notice, and even if you did, you couldn’t imagine the sort of person he really is. He says, in the latter part of the book, “The truth is I hurt people. It’s what I do. It’s all I do. It’s all I’ve ever done.” He’s gotten quite proficient at it – he has a routine, places to dispose of the remains, a well thought-out process for satisfying these urges. Up to now, it has worked perfectly for him, allowing him to travel under the radar.
The trouble starts with a woman, of course. Erica is in the wrong place at the wrong time and she ends up in the cage under our killer’s garage. This should be simple – clearly, he has done this before, made provisions for it. The cage is sturdy, the camera affords him an excellent view of his captive, but somehow things with Erica don’t go quite the way he planned.
Then there’s the woman at the all-night grocery store. Her name tag says Caroline and she is perfect. The kind of perfect that could make a man want to change his evil ways, walk the straight and narrow. But there’s the little problem of the girl in the secret dungeon and the police who suspect him of…something. They aren’t sure what, exactly, but they are definitely suspicious. Our protagonist has some clever and very entertaining ideas about how to weasel out of this – enlisting the help of a woman he planned to murder but ending up rescuing instead – but once more, tings don’t go quite as he planned.
I really enjoyed this – I like the style, I like the bits of detail interspersed with large patches of things left up to your imagination. I like the ambiguous bits – I don’t need an author to beat me over the head with the plot. You can’t help but root for our would-be lover to sort all of this out and get his happily ever after … and then you remember how many women he’s slaughtered and wonder what you were thinking. There’s humor, there’s suspense, and enough action to keep the pages turning. If you don’t mind a little blood and guts and adore a good antihero, you should definitely check this one out.
My copy of Normal was an Advance Reader Copy, provided free of charge. It goes on sale March 31, so pre-order your copy now.