Thursday, 12 April 2012

A Follower of Fashion


I’m a lover of high fashion, a lover of designer labels. There, I’ve said it! For me things are quite simple: I like elegant and well-cut clothes, clothes that complement the line of the body. I dislike fussiness, frills and fluffs. My favourite clothes are those designed by Jasper Conran and Elizabeth Grachvogel. I simply adore Jimmy Choo’s footwear and handbags.

Mostly I dress in a smart casual manner, with jeans and top, as well as a range of skirts, and I’m particularly keen on magic pants. But I always rise for the occasion: a cocktail dress for semi-formal engagements and a full evening dress when I really want to make an impression; and making an impression is wearing something by Armani. Oh, on reflection, perhaps I should have kept quiet about my tastes. The thing is, you see, I might just attract the attention - help! -of Mr Glamour.

Mr Glamour is a new novel by Richard Godwin, author of Apostle Rising, a book I reviewed here last year (Blade Horror, 16 May). There are some similarities between the two, in that both are an exploration of evil and an exploration of the detectives, one male and the other female, in pursuit of evil. But Mr Glamour, if anything, is even darker, a portrait of depravity in deeper shades of noir!

I’m not going to give too much away in terms of spoilers. A decent review is best served as an appetiser, rather than the main course, something to whet rather than spoil the appetite. Let me just say that there is a spectre haunting the world of high fashion and high society, the spectre of Mr Glamour. This is a serial killer with a rather fleshy mission; a shadow who has an appetite that will stimulate other appetites, the emphasis here being on food as well as fashion. I don’t think I will ever again sit in The Ivy, or any other fashionable restaurant, with the same sense of composure!

The whole book is quite compelling. Godwin’s style and delivery seems to be even more assured than it was in Apostle Rising. His sentences are sharp, economical and well-honed, verbal arrows delivered with telling precision, invariably hitting a target. There is also a real sense of style here, expressions and phrases cleverly constructed and placed with simple elegance. Some are highly memorable. “Their evening scrolled by like a meaningless script” – now that really hit home!

In the best tradition of the crime thriller Mr Glamour will keep you guessing, right to the very end. There are cul-de-sacs and false leads aplenty. As I was reading I thought not of a jigsaw but of a shattered mirror. I hope I’m not giving too much away but mirrors and reflections, literally and metaphorically, are important themes. Only when the pieces are put together, so to speak, will we see through the glass darkly.

There are a lot of sexual frolics among the novel’s fashionable set, but Mr Glamour touches on sex at a deeper and more unsettling level. A game is being played, and it’s not a very happy one. The sexual darkness even extends so far as the personal life of Inspector Mandy Steel, one of the officers investigating a series of increasingly ugly crimes. There is light and there is dark, even in the partially damaged face of Chief Inspector Jackson Flare, Steel’s senior colleague, a reflection of a partially damaged psyche. There is a maze here, to be worked through with care; for at the secret heart lies a gruesome Minotaur, one in the process of personal reconstruction, reconstruction through the flesh of others.

Sex, madness, psychosis, voyeurism, religious obsession and death, they are all there in a great whirlwind of images and ideas, themes within themes, puzzles within puzzles nightmares within nightmares. I was guessing right to the end, even so far as the sex of the monster.

Mr Glamour is a superb novel by a writer who is clearly shaping up to be a master of this particular genre. Along with Apostle Rising, it is a book that deserves a place among the best of Gothic fiction. And please, please, Mr Glamour, forget all I said about my tastes in fashion. I’m really quite a simple girl. Come the morning I shall be popping down to Marks and Sparks.

21 comments:

  1. What will the future think of our endless hunger for exotic homicide? While real world Health & Safety wages a tireless war on accidental risk, the population at large gorges on mounds of fictional corpses piled up by ever more arcane and twisted psychopaths. Plot the trends and the future projects an intersection where hermetically sealed humanity is drip-fed a fantasy life in which every personal interaction is some form of intricately choreographed slaughter.

    We live in interesting times.

    I won't mention what I'm wearing. I feel it's safer that way :)

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    1. Ah, Calvin, the ancient Chinese curse! Honestly I don't think their is anything new in the human appetite for murder, mayhem and exotic homicide, as you put it. It's there in the Greek myths, which I consumed avidly when I was a child. Come on, be a devil. :-))

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  2. I like to rummage through the clearance racks.

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    1. Anthony, I've found many a gem that way.

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  3. Nowt wrong wi' Marks and Sparks lass. Me grannie got all her togs theer.

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    1. Quite right, too, Dennis. Practical and monster-free clothing. Speaking of monsters, did you know that they have a range of women’s wear called Per Una? Every time I see that I think of Alfred Jarry’s Père Ubu. :-))

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  4. Splendid review, sounds intriguing!

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  5. What Richard does better than anyone else on the market is he builds what I call a true mystery, meaning that he plays his cards as close as possible to his vest, dropping slight hints (as if bread crumbs) until it's finally time for the reveal.

    Apostle Rising was brilliant for this very aspect and, with Mr. Glamour, Richard raises the bar just that much higher.

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    1. Christopher, that is so true.

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    2. Christopher and Ana that is a great compliment.

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  6. WOW a hell of book, nice review too.

    This book sounds like a cross between 'Shame', 'Silence of the Lambs' and 'Dressed to Kill', three of my favorite movies.

    I can see Hannibal Lector combing the streets of New York City in drag searching for victims to kill based on what they're wearing, hatred of his sex, jealousy, depravity, etc.

    Sure makes for a great book or movie.

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    1. Jeunelle, I think this would make a brilliant movie. I would cast myself in the role of Mandy Steel, except my sexual tastes are not quite as outrageous as hers!

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    2. Jeunelle thank you for your most perceptive comment. Mr. Glamour is Hannibal Lecter in Gucci. The pages drip with descriptions of designer brands. If I had known of your stylish store I would have adorned some characters with tasteful purchases from your Optics Lounge. Evidently I speak as the author but I really do think you would enjoy it. And Ana, maybe Steele is a succubus.

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    3. Ana thank you for this great review. It is great to see that as a reviewer who has a first rate mind, you are not encumbered by conditioned prejudgements of what you will enjoy reading. Thank you also for hosting me. It is a pleasure to be here.

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    4. Richard, thank you for writing such a great thrill and thank you for being my friend. I should add that friendship has nothing whatsoever to do with the tone of my review. :-)

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  7. well I'm way out of time on this, but just have to comment seeing as I bought this book on the basis of all the comments here.

    In a word.. terrible! It took me over a 100 pages to get used to the main protagonists being called 'Flare' (womens magazine?), 'Steel' (made me think of Danielle Steele, uggh) and 'Gertrude Miller' for heavens sake (anyone actually met a 'Gertrude' in real life?). The whole thing is ridiculously improbable, and ultimately depends on multiple sets of identical twins, and extensive psycopathy. I found a complete lack of involvement, or interest in any of the 'characters' involved due to the 1D, predictable caricatures used, and the stereotyped dialogue.. Jesus.. he certainly ain't no Ian Rainkin or Deon Meyer..

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  8. CWB, I haven't read any Deon Meyer but I have read some Rankin, not, I think a proper basis for comparison, any more than Conan Doyle. This is a different kind of detective genre altogether. One is not meant to engage with any of the characters on a personal level; there is too much distance and alienation for that. I loved it; you loathed it; it's as simple as that. On this kind of thing our tastes are clearly quite different. But thanks for your view. :-)

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    1. well you could argue that if there's no involvement in the characters.. etc.

      I guess my expectations were just a bit different(!)

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    2. CWB, I try to be as honest as I can in reviews. This is a work of Gothic horror rather than traditional crime fiction. Perhaps I should have been clearer on that point.

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