Thursday, November 17, 2016

Where some stand out, I stand back

This was a creepy book and teaches you the lesson of change your locks after moving into a new house.
The main character, Mr. Hemings, is a realtor in a small town who prides himself on knowing everything about the town and the people. How does he do this? Well, in part because he's been there for awhile and as a realtor he's responsible for selling many people their homes, so he gets to know them. But the other part is that he's a super creepy crazy person who keeps copies of everyone's house keys so he can go in and rifle through their stuff whenever he feels like it. (Don't worry, this isn't a spoiler.)

One day a dead body is found in the backyard of one of the houses he's sold and dun dun duuuuun! Murder mystery plus worry that people are going to discover his secret.

I believe I have determined for myself that reading creepy books from the POV of the villain is not my thing. And I don't mean in the style of Wicked where you're seeing a different perspective that even if you disagree with the villain, you understand perhaps why they made those decisions. Those are fun. I mean, when you are in the head of a psycho, of a murder, of a legit creepy person and no. Think American Psycho or Zombie. I now have a third example to add to that, so now it is a trend and no thank you.

That doesn't mean the book isn't good. I mean, it's not great and certainly not a favorite, but it kept me reading. Sure, I never sympathized with the character, despite all the flashbacks to a troubled childhood and spent pretty much the whole book wanting him to get caught, but I wanted to know what happened. I've read reviews that say this is funny (including the back summary which calls it "darkly funny" but I tend not to believe those anyway) and...I mean, no? I certainly never found it funny but I also never got the feeling it was supposed to be. Maybe it was but he failed so spectacularly that it didn't harm the story. Or maybe if the funny stuff had landed I would have had a very different opinion of the book. I guess some of the stuff Mr. Hemings does is so crazy that it runs into the absurd and that's the darkly funny part. Here's an example

Mr. Hemings sees a man from the neighborhood hit a woman's car and drive off without leaving a note. Mr. Hemings already doesn't like the guy and believes he doesn't belong in the neighborhood, so he confronts the guy, who claims he didn't hit the car and refuses to pay for the damages. OK, that is a super asshole thing to do. Here's how Mr. Hemings responds.
  • Fixes the woman's car secretly (so that's sweet).
  • Breaks into the guy's house and loosens the buttons on his shirt so they'll ping off when he puts it on (haha, OK that's funny)
  • Cuts the guy's shoelaces (still in the fine, creep you broke into his house but mostly harmless)
  • Steals the guy's favorite Rolex and pawns it (slightly less harmless but I mean, the guy had multiple so he can afford to be without one)
  • Continuously breaks the radiator in the house so they keep having to get it fixed (OK, multiple breakins now)
  • Keeps breaking fuses so electricians have to keep coming in (haha OK now, maybe we're done?)
  • At this point he quits breaking into the house and starts having stuff delivered, like a 14-year-old-troll. This includes: a washing machine, rowing machine, teak furniture, electric piano, wedding dress, statue, and horse saddle (the guy and his wife have to keep canceling credit cards and arguing with company's about these crazy purchases)
  • THEN he starts signing them up for things (again, using the credit cards that he keeps stealing from them): vacations to Mauritius, New Zealand, Norfolk, multiple tickets to musicals, tickets to sports festivals (which again, the guy and his wife have to keep canceling credit cards and arguing to get their money back)
  • OH DID YOU THINK HE'S DONE COS HE'S NOT. When the couple are gone for a long weekend he breaks into the house, lures a bunch of cats in and then locks them in so when they get back their house is ruined and full of cats
  • Mr. Hemings pays a landscaper to rip up their expensive paving stone driveway and lots of hedges
  • Lastly he steals the man's car, fills it up with gas but drives off without paying and returns the car to the house so the police show up.
Because Mr. Hemings is internet vigilantism. By the way, none of the above has to do with the body or any of that story line. This is just to explain the type of guy you're dealing with. BUT despite the above and the weird creepiness, the guy at times is painted as this super sexy guy that some women just can't wait to jump and that stuff does NOT work for me. You can't make your guy out to be creepy and off-putting and then suddenly women are like "Yes, that is the one for me!". Even the author at one point concedes this makes no sense by having the character say "Perhaps there are still those who find it hard to reconcile my unconventional lifestyle to my success with women" and yeah. Of course. He claims it's cos he's not constantly trying to sleep withe women that he gets to constantly sleep with women.

So this has gone on long enough. The book was fine. Not great, obviously. But fine. And change the locks on your house.

Gif rating:
Title quote from page 92

Hogan, Phil. A Pleasure and a Calling. Picador, 2014.