Written by Will Carver — He disappeared for a few years but Will Carver returned in style in 2018 with Good Samaritans. Detective Inspector Pace was then investigating two grisly murders and he returns in Nothing Important Happened Today and as in the previous novel he’s not centre stage. Instead, Carver takes us into a bleak tale of serial murder and cults with just enough black humour to offset the darkness. Much of the novel rests with the cult members and victims as they go to their deaths in London. It’s just one of the unusual aspects of this brilliant book that is quite unlike your average crime fiction.
At points, it reads like a how-to-guide for forming a suicide cult and there’s caustic social commentary poured on. We learn few names in this book. The victims are numbered and given titles. The first nine include the pair of Lovers, the Ungrateful, the Poet and the Doctor. Carver gives us an insight into their lives, all troubled in ways, all very relatable. There is also Young Levant and three Nobodies. Carver spends time with each of them, highlighting the futility of their modern lives, but it’s also touching. At the appointed time they all head to Chelsea Bridge. They carry a rope, the length tailored for the long drop, and it generates just the right force to kill them instantly. Then, as one, they throw themselves over the side and sever their spinal cords. It’s just the start.
The victims receive, in the post, a plain white envelope which has a single slip of paper and the words: Nothing Important Happened Today. They destroy the paper and carry on as if absolutely nothing is amiss. A few hours later they kill themselves, very publicly, and with no hesitation. It’s chilling. It is mesmerising. And, it makes for extraordinarily compulsive reading.
They are The People of Choice and they carry a piece of paper with eight cryptic lines, a suicide note of sorts. The police are scrambling to find the cult. Yet, mostly, Carver keeps us with those who are to die and the brutal social commentary of the cult leader. We check in with Pace, who is having psychological evaluations at the offices of Erickson, Rossi, Milton and Artaud. He’s jousting with Dr Artaud as he hides from him the black flames he can see licking at the walls, and the suspicion that Pace has become intimate with the wife of a suspected murderer.
The style flits around but it is always readable and it is certainly page-turning. I wasn’t certain how Carver was going to complete the book and provide a satisfying arc but Pace gets more involved and we get to meet Old Levant, Young Levant’s uncle. He’s an ex-detective and he is soon piecing together the fragments, when he is not blacking out, a problem that stalked him after the electrocution of his partner. Carver then effectively creates some misdirection as the end of the novel unfolds and he maintains the tension.
This is a book that could have easily gone terribly wrong. The variations in style could be disorientating but they feel natural. Using the appalling tragedy of suicide could be callous and offensive but Carver doesn’t let it feel gratuitous or glorified. The social commentary could just be preachy and come across as ranting but the tone is just right. The numbering and anonymity of the victims could be dehumanising but the details of their lives are genuinely moving. It could have dribbled towards a weak ending but it is has a powerful climax.
There’s no disguising that this is a graphic, often bleak, book. It is a disturbing view of society. In Nothing Important Happened Today, Will Carver has pushed at the edges of the crime genre. This is no cookie cutter domestic noir nor pedestrian police procedural. It’s not so wildly experimental that it’s unreadable, it just doesn’t follow the usual patterns and tropes. It’s unusual, it is original, and it is a brilliant read.
For more experimental crime fiction try The Price You Pay by Aiden Truhen.
CFL Rating: 5 Stars