Book Review: Normal by Graeme Cameron

23214378Title: Normal
Author: Graeme Cameron
Genre: Thriller, Psychological Thriller
Age Group: Adult
Rating: 2 stars

Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This is a love story. No, really.
He lives in your community, in a nice house with a well-tended garden. He shops in your grocery store, bumping shoulders with you as you pass him and apologizing with a smile. He drives beside you on the highway, politely waving to let 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. One small problem–he still has someone trapped in his garage.
Discovering his humanity couldn’t have come at a worse time.

I’ll be honest. I’m not sure what to think of Normal. Usually, when that happens, I browse through other reviews to find points I can relate to, and things I see differently. But with this book, the opinions are so divided I still don’t know whether I like it, or I hate it.

At its core, Normal is a book about a serial killer who blends in completely with his surroundings. However, he’s adept at kidnapping young girls, putting them in a cage and eventually killing him. So he’s a monster, in a way. But when this serial killer, who doesn’t get a name during the book – which works surprisingly well – meets a girl at the checkout from the 24-hour grocery and falls in love with her. He doesn’t want to kill anymore, he doesn’t want to hunt people anymore, all he wants to do is love this girl. But he has a few problems. Like the girl he has hidden in his basement. The girl he just killed. The police right on his heels.

So, I like the premise. A serial killer who suddenly doesn’t want to kill anymore. I like it, but I’m not buying it. Especially not the way it’s written here, with the whole falling in love thing (which happens way too fast, and is unrealistic). The book reminded me of the final seasons of Dexter, when he falls in love with this female murderer. Things went downhill fast after that storyline was introduced, and the same thing happens in this book. The plot sets out for an excellent psychological thriller on the first few pages, but then turns into a laughable chase between the killer and the police, and him suddenly befriending not one but two women, and then having a third seemingly attracted to him as well. I’m sorry, but finding so many people attracted to a serial killer is almost impossible. And then the way the police handles things? That was laugh out loud hilarious. I’m all for dark humor, but it needs to be realistic, and that’s what this book is lacking.

We also never get a back story into the killer’s mind. Why does he kill these women? Why hold them in a cage for so long? Nothing is ever explained, and since we spent the entire book firmly in the killer’s mind, we should get an explanation as to why he does the things he does.

The characters are dull. Their behavior is erratic. The women never reach beyond the personality of a cardboard figure, especially not the love interest. The behavior of the characters kept contradicting itself, which was just plain annoying.

On the other hand, I did enjoy the writing style, and I felt like, although we got no back story, I got a good impression of what went on in the killer’s mind. However, the story was just too unrealistic and the characters’ behavior too out of place for me to truly enjoy it.

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