My rating: 5 of 5 stars
BOOK REVIEW – RICHARD GODWIN – MR GLAMOUR
By Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw
Readers of Richard Godwin’s APOSTLE RISING who wondered how Richard could possibly follow up on that brilliant and macabre masterpiece need wonder no longer. The question is answered resoundingly with Mr. Glamour, a tight, well-written psychological thriller written in Richard’s trademark noir / horror styling.
A novel rich in detail and innuendo, Mr. Glamour plunges the reader into the wickedness and debauchery of the ‘jet set’ and the psychoses of two worlds colliding – the watcher and the watched – where the lines between victim and instigator are not always sharply defined. To paraphrase a song… ‘faith has been suffered and tears will be shed’. And blood.
When a fisherman casts his line out in the water, he has to be patient… very patient sometimes… and wait for his prey to take the bait.
Writers have not such a luxury… they must reach out and grab the reader quickly… in those first few words… and sink the hook deep… keeping the reader on the line until the final line of that last chapter… until ‘~finis~’. Otherwise, the reader loses interest and moves on to the next promising cover.
Richard Godwin knows this well, as evidenced in the opening lines of Mr. Glamour –
“She has the eyes of a pit viper and the mouth of an angel.”
With that line, the ‘bait’ is taken and a few lines down, the hook is firmly set –
“Her flesh is so soft,
It will split like a peach skin,
You know the fine spray that shoots out from the fruit
On a hot summer’s day
As you run the paring knife along the contour…”
There are but a small handful of writers who can pen the warm, provocative image of a piece of ripe summer fruit… so tantalizing… and then with the deftness of a surgeon’s blade, make those words drip in silent horror, leaving one’s breath caught in the back of their throat… the scream never reaching suddenly dry lips. As it does with another favorite author of mine… the night light burned brightly while I read Mr. Glamour.
Richard Godwin is among that handful of writers and Mr. Glamour is the ‘bait’ to catch even the most discriminating and demanding reader of noir horror fiction.
Richard’s unique blend of psychological horror and dark police procedural drama make for a taut, suspense-filled, often edge-of-the-seat, read. Mr. Glamour is brilliantly paced, as a good mystery/thriller should be, and the sub-plots are woven seamlessly throughout… told in Richard’s wonderfully dark narrative style.
Richard challenges our perceptions of good and evil and shatters stereotypes. In Mr. Glamour, he shows us that evil doesn’t live only in the hearts and minds of the criminal, where it is welcomed and brought to full fruition in an attempt to gain the power and control so craved… the lust for dominion over others. Evil also hides behind the sub-conscious rationalizations of a broken mind and the lustful cravings of those pathetic ‘bags of bones’ for which too much is never enough and too far is a notion not to be considered.
Evil exists in the psychopath… a serial killer stalking London’s glamour set with an agenda so horrific that we struggle to comprehend the forces that drive a human being to such extremes, forgetting perhaps that in such a diseased mind, rationalizations and justifications take on different shades in the dark abyss of madness. In the psychopath, madness isn’t a disease… it is the breath of life.
Speaking of breath… when the end is revealed… and the identity and purpose of the killer is known… now, that will take your breath away! I still… weeks later… get a wonderful, slightly terrified shiver at the twist. Is the adjective ‘brilliant’ over-used? Not in this case. Richard has written a breathtaking novel that is truly brilliant… in plot and execution!
Evil abides in the subdued character of middle-aged housewife Gertrude Miller… a dark psychosis struggling against the distasteful reality of her existence… and through Richard’s beautiful telling; we are made witness to the progression of Gertrude’s madness. Interwoven with the main plot, Gertrude’s life… and past… is revealed to us and it is impossible not to feel some empathy for her. The physical pain and debasement she inflicts on herself in an effort to purge her self-imposed sins are not enough to save Gertrude though and she attempts to find a rightness and validation in what must follow… in what must be done to bring some measure of peace to a tortured soul. Will vengeance at last quiet her demons?
Evil lurks beneath the thin veneer of respectability of law and order as well. Richard’s keen insight into the human condition has created two flawed characters… DCI Jackson Flare and DI Mandy Steele. Unspoken, both seek approval from the other, yet neither is willing to share anymore of them-selves than absolutely necessary. There is a dichotomy at work here that is interesting to observe.
Richard understands all too well that good doesn’t always triumph over evil… not on its own at any rate… and it is the very flaws, both physical and psychological, of Steele and Flare that will ultimately bring a killer – or is it killers? – before the seats of justice.
The back-story of the main characters is critical to a good story, but there is a skill to doing it… not enough and the reader is left with questions that nag and distract from the story itself… or too much and the story gets lost in the character. Richard writes his character’s back-stories with a perfect balance … woven in all the right places in the story. The difference between telling a story and telling it well is all in the little details. Richard’s characters may not be well-balanced, in a psychological sense I hasten to add, but they are balanced well in the narrative. Layers and depth are important in the development of a character; something Richard does extremely well.
I’m going to say something here that some will not agree with, but a book review isn’t just reciting the plot points of the story; it is also about interpretation and effect on the reader. A few dry, dusty words won’t make one rush down to the bookstore or log on to Amazon with that little rectangle of plastic ‘twixt clenched fingers.
Rape is about power and control… domination. Battling with the demons of both her present and past self while trying to work the cases with Flare, there is a scene in which Mandy is forced into the unthinkable act of raping herself in an attempt to regain that power and control before she is completely lost. This is a particularly revelatory scene, both for the reader and the character. I realize that some will read those passages and have a different interpretation, but this is what resonated with me… this is what I think is being told. It goes deeper than just the domination of her partner… that alone does not give Steele all that she needs. The duality of sadism and masochism makes Detective Inspector Mandy Steele a very interesting character in this little ‘fête de l’horreur et l’obsession’.
Frustration grows for the police and public alike as it becomes increasingly apparent that there is more than one killer at work in the streets of London and its suburbs. The police struggle to find connections between the victims, racing against the clock to stop the madness before another grisly murder is committed. Grisly might be too mild a word for the atrocities that are wrought on innocent yet not so innocent flesh. Trophies are taken and marks are left… the ‘trademarks’ of a truly sick, twisted mind… the mind of one of the most diabolical characters Richard has created.
Evil always leaves scars and those scars sometimes breed new evil… which leaves fresh scars and those… and so the cycle goes… evil is perpetuated.
People often do bad things as an act of vengeance or rebellion against those who wrought the scars. The human mind has an amazing capacity for evil and those caught up in evil will use it to justify their own weaknesses and flaws.
Scars is a ‘sub theme’, if you will, behind Mr. Glamour…. beyond the mirrors and reflections of sex and excess. Mr. Glamour is more than just a novel about a serial killer loose in the streets of London, mutilating the ‘glamour set’ and confounding the police authorities at every turn. What is the motive in that? Why does a person do something so egregious and horrific? What drives them?
Mr. Glamour is about people with scars… physical scars that can drive one to inflict what was wrought on them onto others… the need for revenge. Psychological scars that push a person to acts they would not normally contemplate were it not for the mental deficit present, exacerbated by events beyond their control… that they cannot control… thus leading them to acts of their own in an attempt to regain some semblance of control. Emotional scars so deep-seated that they have split the psyche of the individual and the two parts become locked in conflict until the stronger half of the duality emerges and dominates the whole, following its new imperative. And then there are those who have had devastating physical and emotional scars rendered upon them… creating a vicious, murderous psychosis. A madman isn’t born… he is made.
If that rather blank-eyed stare in the eyes of your neighbour as she sorts through the cutlery bin at the department store sounds warning bells in your head… it would probably be best to decline any invitation for afternoon tea.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Richard… Thank you very much for a thoroughly engrossing and entertaining story. Mr. Glamour is guaranteed to stay with the reader long after that last page is turned.
And if my hand shakes a little the next time I slip into my favorite La Perla or Samantha Chang or Maison Close… well, I guess we all know who I have to thank for that, don’t we?
Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw
Cannon Beach, Oregon
28 May 2012
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