This novel was originally published as an e-book, and has apparently gone on to become a “runaway bestseller” to quote the publisher’s blurb. Let me say at the outset that I have absolutely no prejudice against e-books, and I am sure there are some excellent ones.
It begins with a murder. Alex, an unsuccessful nonentity who thinks he is a great writer, has just pushed one of his fellow students at a writing class off the roof of a block of flats. He thinks she might be spoiling his chances with the tutor, Siobhan, with whom he is infatuated and is stalking.
Siobhan also believes herself to be a great writer, and in fact has had one novel published, which was quite successful, mainly because it was all about sex. She is sure she is going to write a “great novel” in the near future, and in the meantime has taken the opportunity at the local further education centre of taking on a small bunch of aspiring writers. She regards all her students with snobbish disdain, although chats up the men because she has just broken up with her boyfriend.
The hapless Alex’s stalking habits become more and more bizarre. He barely thinks about the woman he has killed, because he thinks his actions were justified, and even attends her funeral, along with Siobhan. Siobhan eventually identifies her pursuer and is terrified of him.
Then the whole plot is turned on its head when Alex, suddenly and inexplicably, falls in love with someone else. She is a complete innocent and has the misfortune to be employed at Siobhan’s publishers.
In one sense this is not a true murder mystery, as the only murder occurs at the very beginning and we know who the perpetrator is. He does plan a second murder, but doesn’t carry it out. The world of Siobhan and Alex is so bleak, and lacks all empathy. If you are thinking of joining a writing class, don’t go there.
My problem with this one is that I absolutely loathed it, not because it was badly written – it is not, and the plot is ingenious. No, it is simply that the two leading characters are two of the most self-centred, unsympathetic people ever to appear between the pages of a book. Both urgently need the attentions of a psychiatrist.