Normal by Graeme Cameron
Publication date: 9 April 2015
Length: 320 pages
Age group: Adult
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository
My rating: ★★★
“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 needs only 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.
I’ve been intrigued by Normal since the minute I read the blurb and, after hearing some amazing things about it from fellow bloggers, I couldn’t wait to pick it up. It was one of the books I was looking forward to reading the most this spring and I was really, really hoping it wouldn’t disappoint.
I LOVED the idea of being able to get inside the killer’s head and hearing the story from his perspective. Thrillers are one of my favourite genres but I rarely get to read books like that and I was really curious how Cameron would make it work.
I started reading the book while waiting for my flight back to the UK after a short holiday and was completely gripped by the first few chapters. I literally flew through the first hundred pages, frantically turning the pages and trying to make sense of what was happening or why this guy was doing this to his victims. I couldn’t stop raving about it on social media and was almost certain it would turn out to be one of the most chilling thrillers I’ve read in 2015.
It was all going well until I hit the 50% mark. From then on, it all kind of went downhill for me, for a number of reasons. One of them – and probably my biggest issue – is the fact that I just felt like the writer was trying way too hard to create a likeable character, a charming killer. The stories about helping a lost girl find his mum, helping the Girl Guides and buying flowers for a random girl he’s never met were just the icing on the cake. At this point I was already frustrated, but I felt like the story could have been much better without the ‘likeable anti-hero’ theme. This aspect didn’t work for me at all, not even at the beginning – although it might be a subjective thing.
Another, slightly more worrying thing that kept bothering me is that there’s a pretty long list of things we don’t know, not even by the end of the book. The most obvious being – as most people mentioned already – is the fact that our guy clearly doesn’t work. He never mentions it and has all the time in the world for everything else. So how is it possible that, despite all this, he has a custom-made cage in his basement, spends a small fortune on clothes, food and other items for the girl he’s keeping there, has a nice house and – oh wait, he still has enough left that he can rent cars or take taxis whenever he likes?
We also don’t know anything about his motives. Although tiny bits and pieces of his past are revealed throughout the story, they don’t really explain why he’s doing this – and he’s not offering us an explanation either. Even though this was less frustrating than the far-fetched plot and the actual plot holes, it would have been nice to get some kind of an answer at the end.
All in all, an intriguing idea and a very strong start but, as much as I wanted to, it failed to wow me.