Villain, Edward Berridge
One reader's darkly comic domestic noir is another reader's vegan sausage. Which is a really bad way of saying I just didn't get VILLIAN. Not for a moment, and try as I might I'm not even sure I can explain it adequately.
At the core it's a very "current day" idea - what would drive an ordinary person to kill? Injustice? Revenge? Notoriety? Heartbreak? Post separation anxiety? Whole desperate experience of internet dating? Clickbait headlines? For Alistair, it could be all of those things, piled on top of each other. Good questions all of them - we could probably add everyone constantly being outraged about everything. Surely that's got to be part of the reason why somebody is (or has already) flipping out and doing appalling things.
It's also an interesting idea to make Alistair... well an utter twat. Appalling man. Awful. The kind of dickhead who thinks value judgements on women's looks are his right - but then casual misogny and appalling over-confidence in own worth isn't an unknown combination these days - in fact as the judgement against those sorts of blokes get more strident they seem to be wearing their dickheadery with increasing pride.
Somehow though the whole thing didn't quite jell for this reader. Alistair was flat out awful to the point where I didn't want to spend a nano-second's time with him - not that I had a reaction to or for him / just flat out couldn't care less. Don't want to think about him, don't particularly care one way or the other what made him do what to whom. Just want him out of my life and out of my thoughts.
Which made everything he did a bit... bleagh. Of course he's a misogynistic twat. Of course he's an appalling father, an awful ex-husband, a self-involved dickhead with no redeeming features. I so struggled with care factor I just couldn't retain much at all. In the end, my final review note on the final page of my copy summed it up I guess "bored / bored / bored / bored / what was all that about...?".
Still can't answer that final question - which is why it's been quite a while between reading the book and writing this review. Don't take my word for it, if anything in the blurb appeals, have a go at the book yourself and see if I've just flat out missed the point.
“I was aware of the weight of Spoole’s head, clutched against my stomach. I hadn’t thought of a head being something that was heavy to carry. Another new thing learned.”
Alistair’s another middle-aged casualty struggling with divorce and a career that’s hit a dead end. Erica’s haunted by the violent deaths of three boys. And Charlie’s a clickbait journalist who can’t generate traffic. Now, a series of attention seeking murders sucks them into the same careening news cycle. In Villain, though, the mystery is not who the killer is. It’s what he’ll do next, how he’ll keep trending and if he’ll get away with his crimes as the investigation closes in.
Edward Berridge’s new novel is a darkly comic domestic noir taking on the big themes of love, desire and mortality and shaking them up in a bag with contemporary talking points like internet dating, social media celebrity, post separation parenting, IVF and the white collar workplace.
It’s Girl on a Train meets Michel Houellebecq’s Atomised with a twist at the end you’ll never see coming. There’s nothing like it in Australian crime fiction.