Title: Normal by Graeme Cameron
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense/Thriller
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher
“The truth is I hurt people. It’s what I do. It’s all I do. It’s all I’ve ever done.”
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.
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 only needs her. But just as he decides to go straight, the police start to close in. He might be able to cover his tracks, except for one small problem—he still has someone trapped in his garage.
Discovering his humanity couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Narrated in first person by the nameless serial killer, Normal by Graeme Cameron is a dark and twisted novel that is refreshing, engrossing and unexpectedly, humorous. The lead protagonist is surprisingly easy to like despite his rather gruesome habit of stalking and killing innocent women but it is impossible to view him as a sympathetic character. He does eventually grows a conscience, but will he be able to leave his life of crime behind?
Right from the opening pages, luck is not on our narrator’s side as things do not go quite as planned after the murder of his latest victim. He makes an impetuous decision to kidnap a potential witness and while he is holding her captive, he makes a surprising decision to keep her alive. She is unexpectedly spunky despite her perilous situation and he finds himself rather fascinated by her fearlessness. His change in attitude is due, in part, to the fact that he has fallen head over heels for a supermarket checker. Also factoring into this unanticipated transformation is his unprecedented friendship with an intended victim that he saved from another assailant. But he still finds it difficult to completely suppress his murderous urges and his newly found scruples lead to careless mistakes that put him under the scrutiny of the local police.
Little of the protagonist’s history is revealed which makes it impossible to understand what turned him into a killer. Like most murderers, he is surprisingly ordinary in many ways and he has a sardonic sense of humor which is usually demonstrated through his witty inner monologue. But his crimes are a little too heinous to overlook and it is impossible to hope he will evade capture once he becomes a person of interest during the police investigation of one of his victims.
While Normal is a well-written story, in the beginning, it is a bit disjointed and confusing as the narrative jumps from scene to scene without clear transitions. This does finally become less often as the novel progresses and the overall plot begins to feel more cohesive. Although the storyline is unrealistic, it is interesting and very entertaining. Graeme Cameron does an excellent job keeping the reader off balance as the novel thunders to a dramatic and rather suspenseful conclusion.
Normal is an offbeat novel with quirky characters that is quite riveting. The plot is unique, the characters are flawed and it is definitely not the typical police procedural. It is truly an unforgettable and fascinating read that I almost feel guilty admitting I liked 🙂 .