Every now and then, my morbid side kicks in and I end up reading something about serial killers or Nazis. So I picked up Graeme (how do you pronounce that name?) Cameron’s Normal because I thought it was supposed to be a thriller about a fictional serial killer. However, the book turned out to be a black comedy, and I wasn’t laughing or amused at all because I didn’t understand why these morbidly funny parts kept appearing—I was confused by them instead. The book wasn’t advertised as a black comedy—I thought it was going to be your typical serial killer story. If the book’s true genre had been more obvious, I doubt I would have read it at all. So here are the highlights (or the lowlights, I guess):
- The book had a romantic element: the plot was supposed to be about a serial killer who falls in love. I was a little confused by this premise because aren’t serial killers supposed to be incorrigible? Aren’t they supposed to be incapable of feeling normal human emotions? I know the author wanted me to think outside the box, but it just didn’t work. I didn’t see how the serial killer’s love interest (Rachel) could still want to be with him after he confessed that he was hiding another girl in his house’s basement. Rachel’s backstory did make her a bit sympathetic to the serial killer, but it wasn’t quite enough for me to be convinced.
- The girl trapped in the basement, Erica, became completely crazy, perhaps even crazier than the serial killer himself. She also became jealous and possessive of the serial killer; some readers might say that she had fallen in love with him (Stockholm syndrome?). This was the most believable element of the book, probably because Erica’s backstory had been given enough depth to make it convincing. But it wasn’t enough to redeem the entire book.
- The serial killer (the author did not give him a name) did not have enough backstory. There were glimpses here and there but not enough to make me like him, sympathize with him, feel sorry for him, or want him to become a better person.
- The police were stupid to the point where I wanted to throw the book across the room in frustration. They kept saying they had a hunch that the serial killer was in fact guilty of killing many young women, but they never acted on their hunch and kept showing up at the serial killer’s house at awkward times. Then a bunch of “funny”/inane dialogue would ensue, and I’d be frustrated that these idiot cops never bothered to really investigate the killer until the very end of the story, and most of the cops ended up dying brutally. I guess that was the black comedy element, but I didn’t like it.
- It seemed like there were a lot of holes and gaps in the plot—I guess that’s another place where the black comedy was supposed to come in, but I just couldn’t find it funny because I was so confused and wondering how the heck it could have happened and how the heck I was supposed to suspend disbelief.
In short, this would be a good book if you like black comedies, but if you want a typical thriller/suspense novel, I’d stay away.