Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Pavement, by Richard Butchins

4 stars

Usually, when picking up a book with murder on its mind it tends to be of the maverick-cop-with-problematic-personal-life-hunts-demented-but-brilliant-psychopath-in-a-deadly-game-of-cat-and-mouse variety. This isn’t that kind of book. Instead, we’re trying for something altogether more interesting. 

Set in a dystopian world that’s almost exactly our own, just with society given an extra nudge in the direction it’s already travelling, our nameless protagonist pounds the pavements of London, rendered invisible and embittered by poverty and disability. With everything and everyone around him only serving to fuel his hatred, along with vivid dreams dripping with blood, he soon seeks to separate himself from society entirely and puts into play his plans of murder. 

Not feeling like a voice I’ve heard before, Mr Butchins captured that of an obsessive misanthrope extremely well (I wonder if he actually went out and counted all those paving slabs?), complete with some fantastically black stabs of comedy. He also has a wonderful way with words when it comes to description with the passages on Charing Cross, Blackfriars and HMS Belfast being my favourites, and I’d have liked to have seen even more of these flourishes. 

As the book progresses and our protagonist murders without consequence (unless you count visions of dead prostitutes as consequences) some of the dream sequences started to feel ever so slightly repetitive, though this may be as I was more interested in what was happening outside of those dreams (I also hesitate to call them this, as it’s hard to say for sure whether those waking moments weren’t also fantasy). I also picked up a few misprints and small mistakes in my copy – but these are small errors easily fixed with another pass by a beady-eyed editor. 

In all, this was an interesting book that held my attention even when my kittens were running all over me – no mean feat! – and Richard Butchins is the owner of a voice that doesn’t sound like anyone else's, and one which I look forward to seeing him develop.

* I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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