The Clusterfuck

The Butcher - Jennifer Hillier

(I got an ARC through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Quotes liable to change upon publishing.)

From now on, I'm going to maintain that this book was classified in the wrong genre.

Let's be upfront: as a thriller, I'm giving it 2 stars, and that's being kind. It didn't keep me on the seat of my edge. It didn't give me, well, the thrills. The mystery wasn't so well-done, and rested upon a lot of coincidences, such as people stumbling upon others in the middle of a conversation. I see what the author did here: revealing who the killer is in the beginning (seriously, you know who it is in chapter 1), and stressing the "why", "how" and "will they take the fallout" aspects, rather than the "whodunnit" one; I'm not sure it worked properly, though. It may have worked better for me if the characters had been deeper, psychologically-speaking; their psyches were touched upon, sure, but not enough to offset the fact that without a whodunnit, it wasn't exactly the same. Readers looking for that may not find this book to their liking.

But as a work of dark, dark humour? As a dark, twisted comedy? 4 stars.

This novel took whatever disgusting things were in me and brought them to the light. At least, I think it did, since I found myself snickering and even laughing more than once. It's like watching a trainwreck: you're feeling horrible for doing so, but you can't help keep staring. It was the same thing here.

Graphic, violent, sexualised killings. The male protagonist is a sociopath. The world revolves around himsel, and it's the most natural thing, and don't you dare act otherwise. He feels bad about someone dying, but not because the person died: because it might impact his success as a restaurateur and chef. The male deuteragonist is a psychopath with a steely, condescending opinion on people on general and women in particular. The girl tries to make sense of it all, the cops try to make sense of it all, to no avail. Other women get killed. And yet. Yet, it's funny. If it was made into a movie, I'd place it along "Burn After Reading" on my shelf. Think "what the hell just happened here, and why are all those guys dead?" funny. Or: "Oh, so they found the corpses of the Bay Harbour Butcher's victims... Wait, I'm the Butcher!" funny. If you snickered at Dexter trying to help the police catch the aforementioned Bay Harbour Butcher, fully knowing he's trying to catch himself, and has to sabotage the whole thing so that he can escape—cue in mistakes he barely manages to cover—then, yes, this novel may be for you.

It was the same here.

In fact, "The Clusterfuck" would make a perfect alternate title for this novel.

What happens when you accidentally kill a guy, ask help from the one person whom you know is worse than you, and that person tells you to take the body out of the dumpster?

 

“Okay, I’ll try.” He took a deep breath and tried not to think about his aching back. “But my back really hurts—”
“Fuck your back,” Edward barked. “If you’re standing, it’s not broken. This is your ass on the line and right now tipping the goddamned dumpster is the only option we got. You want to get the body out or not?”
“Yes, Chief.”
“Then do what the fuck I say.”

 

Indeed, son. The garbage men will be here in four hours, so stuff cut the I-hurt-my-back whining. This is Bumbling Serial Killer 101 for you.

 

He knew they wouldn’t be able to save him. One hundred milligrams of Viagra combined with all the medications for his heart and blood pressure that he was already taking... the old guy didn’t stand a chance.

 

Retirement communities for active seniors? Oh, gee, everybody knows those are places where residents keep humping each other, and the nurses really aren't surprised to find old guys overdosing on Viagra. Poisoned? The third death in two weeks? A killer? Here? Nah. It's all Viagra's fault.

I'll let you imagine what happens when the girl, convinced that her boyfriend's cheating on her, tries to catch him in the act.

So I laughed. And it was horrible, because people were dying in this novel, and the killer remained on the loose, unsuspected. Worse, everybody and their dog came to him for advice. Cosmic irony to the power of ten. Since the characters were not developed deep enough, it paradoxically put them in the roles of unwilling puppets, thrown into a series of coincidences, fuck-ups, and situations that make you facepalm because you just know how it's going to end, and it's going to suck for them, but you're going to chuckle anyway. Horrible, horrible readers that we are.

As a real, serious thriller, I think this novel fails flat.

As dark, partly slapstick half-comedy, it works. I liked it. I did.

And I still think it should be marketed as so.