Normal by Graeme Cameron book review: A normal serial killer

Interview with Graeme Cameron

Blurb: “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.

Stars: 4/5

Normal is an uncomfortable read. Told from the point of view of a serial killer, it’s the normal tenor of his voice while he goes out, kills a girl, kidnaps another, and goes for groceries to feed his kidnap victim that is uncomfortable. There are times I found myself reading and forgetting I was reading about a serial killer … until of course, he interacted with Erica, held prisoner in a cage under his garage.

“He” has no name. He could be anyone, which I think ups the ante on how uncomfortable this book is. He explains why he kills, even makes it plausible enough that I found myself somewhat understanding how he could become a killer. Cameron has created a character who could be anyone — anyone on your street, in fact — and aside from the pesky problem of his need to kill, he is somewhat likeable.

When I first read the blurb for this I was reminded of Barry Lyga’s Jasper Dent series – a YA series about the son of a notorious serial killer who thinks he might be like his father. Jasper finds serial killers in that series, but his voice is filled with angst and worry about who he is. Cameron’s he, however, is certain of who he is – a killer – and he embraces it.

However, his normal is disrupted when he finds himself falling for Rachel, a check-out chick – in a very, very normal way. It’s strange to see this killer try to be normal in the everyday sense of the word that we’re used to – it’s not him and it is at the same time because he falls in love like anyone … normal would.

However, there’s still the problem of Erica, locked in a cage under his house.

As much as the blurb for this book tells you this is his story, Erica is as important a character, I thought. She, like he is, is nowhere close to any sort of normal. At first I thought she might be developing some sort of Stockholm Syndrome, but Cameron is a far better writer than that. He takes the victim of a crime, one that begins the book without any power, and lets her evolve into a something more than a victim – someone unafraid to take the power she’s denied for most of the book. It’s a gradual evolution, so lightly done that you’d wonder how he didn’t see what Erica was doing – gaining his trust, waiting for the right moment to strike.

Erica and he are messed up, complicated characters, but I ended the book wondering what Erica and he could have been capable of together. Hands down the first time ever I wanted to see the killer/s get away with murder.

 

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