[Review]: Normal by Graeme Cameron

Posted 8 April, 2015 by DLWhite in Reviews, Writers Read 2 Comments

Normal Book Cover Normal
Graeme Cameron
April 9, 2015

"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.

I received a copy of this book for review from NetGalley.

I flipflopped on whether I wanted to read this book because while I enjoy thrillers and mysteries and a book about serial killers is my TOTAL crack laced catnip, I’ve also read enough of the genre (or subgenre, some might say) that I know what makes a good one, or one that’s going to keep my attention.

I know I need a story line that SCREAMS… it can’t lollygag along. I don’t have the patience and the suspense doesn’t hold up if the author meanders his/her way through the plot.

I know that I need a compelling main character who is decidedly not normal but SEEMS normal and that’s what’s so frightening.

I need that main character to have a clear reason for doing what he’s doing– no matter how twisted that reason might be, no matter how vehemently this character believes in it, it must be a clear impetus for his actions.

Lastly, I need the story to build to a crescendo and an almost impossible– yet plausible– ending.

In some ways Normal fits the bill but in most ways this novel just fell short for me. We never even learn this protagonist’s name. It begins with a bang, so to speak, with a calculated murder, one which impressed me because as a frequent watcher of Forensic Files, often murderers and serial killers make a ton of mistakes that get them caught. I was drawn in by the protag’s sense of ‘normal life’ even though he was so evidently wrong in his murder/kidnapping habits.

As the story went deeper, I became more and more confused. There was no real reasoning as to why a certain person appealed to him. Events seemed to happen on whim– I felt the protag was too organized to not plan ahead. Some women he met didn’t become victims… he didn’t explain why. One victim, he draws himself so closely to, again without a real reason why. Just… story progression and I don’t need everything spelled out for me but I DO need a clue. As well this story is clearly set in the UK and I am pretty ethnocentric about my reads. I prefer they are set in the US but I’m trying to be better about that.

Around 40%, I was bored. Things were happening but I frankly wasn’t interested in his flirting with Rachel or dreaming about Annie. Even his f-word laced verbal spars with Erica became hum drum after awhile. I started skipping around to 50%, then 79%, then 83%. Then I read the end and the three chapters preceding. It didn’t feel like the story got any better. I got the gist of the novel and while the story line is original, it just didn’t grab me. The pace was slow, the prose was full of details I don’t care about and I often had to read sections over and over again because of the jump of time or location or subject. I was puzzled throughout the book.

From the accompanying reviews I see I am most likely in the minority, though again I admit to being very picky and a stickler about thrillers. I wouldn’t say this was a terrible book but I had a difficult time enjoying it.

2 Responses to “[Review]: Normal by Graeme Cameron”

  1. donnapep


    I see that you’re using the Book Review plugin on your site. When you use the plugin, it can make the excerpts look a bit messy. I wrote a post about how you can clean those up so they look nicer.

    Regardless, great blog and thanks for using the plugin!