A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
Following a family tragedy, Emma escapes to university in search of a new life. Still raw and vulnerable, she struggles to fit in with her fun-loving housemates and feels excluded. Only charismatic, caring Pete takes her under his wing and shows her true friendship.
Pete introduces Emma to his childhood sweetheart, Lucy, and the bleak Northumberland coast where they grew up. Together, Pete and Lucy also introduce her to their unconventional way of life.
As Emma and Lucy grow close, Emma feels torn as her feelings for Pete develop into something deeper. But Pete has a traumatic past of his own, and his concern for the two girls who love him is not all it seems…
When I say that The Perfect Suicide is one of the most unsettling books I can ever remember reading, I mean it as a compliment.
If asked to describe it in one word – pigeonhole it in a genre – I couldn’t do it. Bleak thriller, twisted romance and psychological horror are a start, but they don’t really capture its essence.
Starting with a beautifully-written prologue set on a deserted beach in Northumberland, the narrative swiftly moves on to Leeds University where Emma is trying to escape her memories.
She’s an odd fish: socially awkward, out of place and racked by feelings of inadequacy, she doesn’t fit in with most of her flatmates who are pretty typical students – hell bent on enjoying their first steps into adulthood and independence and only occasionally remembering that a university is a place of learning. But she isn’t the only person in P8, Clarence Dock who doesn’t quite belong. Although Pete seems, on the face of it, more at ease with his rowdy companions, he is also an outsider and the two are inevitably drawn together.
So far, so predictable: but Lotte Worth then throws the book entirely off kilter by introducing Lucy, Pete’s unworldly and entirely too-good-to-be-true fiancee, and the three characters – Emma, Pete and Lucy – become locked in a strange and claustrophobic relationship.
Pete and Lucy’s story is told through the medium of flashbacks which move forward in time, only finally coinciding, shatteringly, with the present at the moment of denouement – on the same Northumbrian beach where the prologue was set.
A disquieting and slightly unhealthy atmosphere pervades the whole book, but it’s so subtle you’re only subliminally aware of it. In fact, it’s so finely conveyed that the hedonistic, party-going behaviour of Emma and Pete’s flatmates, which would normally have struck me as loud and a bit obnoxious, actually seems like a breath of fresh air – a blast of welcome normality.
It’s impossible to talk in any detail about the actual plot of the book without diminishing the shock value of its twists and turns, so I’ll restrict myself to a brief: I didn’t see where it was going until it had almost got there.
If you like your books cosy and reassuring, then this isn’t the one for you. If, on the other hand, you like to find yourself torn between not really wanting to read any further but being incapable of putting the bloody thing down …
Sassy Books. (An imprint of John Hunt Publishing). 2013. ISBN: 978-1780997261. 309pp.