Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Book Review: A Pleasure and a Calling by Phil Hogan

From Goodreads:
You won't remember Mr Heming. He showed you round your comfortable home, suggested a sustainable financial package, negotiated a price with the owner and called you with the good news. The less good news is that, all these years later, he still has the key. 
That's absurd, you laugh. Of all the many hundreds of houses he has sold, why would he still have the key to mine? 
The answer to that is, he has the keys to them all. 
William Heming's every pleasure is in his leafy community. He loves and knows every inch of it, feels nurtured by it, and would defend it - perhaps not with his life but if it came to it, with yours...
For me, this book was all about the character of Mr. Heming and the slow unraveling and reveal of who and what he really is.  The plot is also excellent and certainly entertaining, but I fell in love with the Mr. Heming and his persona.  Mr, Heming is the narrator of his own story and he is every bit the British gentleman.  He is incredibly intelligent, quite witty, very sophisticated, and charming.  Also he's a total psychopath.  The tone reminded me a lot of Dexter if Dexter were a British gentleman.  Heming is funny and fun to listen to and you find yourself feeling very sympathetic to his character, despite the very creepy things he's not at all shy about sharing with the reader.  I was both utterly charmed and thoroughly creeped out, which turned out to be a winning combination in terms of my enjoyment.

Entertainment Value
I compared Mr. Heming to Dexter in terms of his personality and voice, but the book itself doesn't have the same pace or gore of the Dexter series.  Because Mr. Heming is so proper and such a gentleman, he doesn't go too deeply into the description of the horrible things he's done, which perfectly fits his character.  It also tends to move a bit slower, although that doesn't mean it was boring by any stretch.  I brought it home from work to finish because I couldn't face the prospect of waiting all weekend to find out what would happen.

I'm really impressed with how Hogan managed to be completely disturbing and unsettling without using any of the typical thriller cliches for pacing.  There's no sex, no gore, and few instances of profanity.  Instead, we're given the perfectly calm and logical musings of a crazy person who just so happens to be particularly charming and winsome.  And, occasionally, violent.  I found the overall effect to be both delightful and deliciously creepy and disturbing.  In the end, it made me glad we recently changed our locks.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a copy to review.

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