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.