Will Carver’s writing is like tequila, or Marmite, perhaps. He produces a hot and abrasive brand of crime fiction that makes readers uncomfortable. For some this is delectable and it leaves you wanting more. For others, the approach is… challenging. If you dare to read Psychopaths Anonymous – with or without tequila and Marmite – prepare for more sex and violence than your average crime novel, or even your average Will Carver crime novel. You’re in for a dark and disturbing ride as Carver pushes the envelope further than ever before.
The main protagonist, Maeve, is a character we first met in Will Carver’s earlier book, Good Samaritans. There, she was a fully functioning alcoholic whose marriage to Seth had gone stale in London’s suburbia. Now we go back and see another side to her, discovering that she is a nymphomaniac who enjoys killing, mostly men. She had her first drink at 14 and her first murderous thought on the same day when a family member bumped into her. Feeling no guilt and having no conscience, Maeve is a true psychopath. She revels in other people’s misfortunes, which is the real reason she regularly attends the meetings of multiple Alcoholics Anonymous groups. That, and to pick up men to use and dispose of like a Black Widow spider.
For the same reason she watches reality television, to delight in other people’s dysfunctional lives, but also to distract from her high-powered job. It’s a predictable routine that works for her: spend the day at work, go home, warm a TV dinner in the microwave, watch some reality TV, go to an AA meeting and occasionally either kill a man or pick one up for sex. Until she meets Seth, a man she actually likes and wants to keep. Unfortunately, hiding her dysfunctional support group friends and her penchant for killing from Seth might prove to be quite the challenge.
Besides, Maeve doesn’t want to quit. On the contrary, the novelty is wearing thin and Maeve craves more excitement. What better way to conduct your own social experiment and gather a group of fellow psychopaths together in the same room? So Maeve forms a group – the Psychopaths Anonymous of the title. The only problem with psychopaths is that there is a rather large possibility that they’ll start acting, well… like psychopaths, which will attract the attention of the police. The odds that another killer lurks among them are reasonably high.
As with his previous books, Carver has a unique way of engaging his readers – he draws us in and addresses us directly. The result is a certain compliance. We’re involved in the carnage that follows and strangely, we don’t mind being observers. After the umpteenth sexual encounter, it’s not shocking anymore. Eventually we are numbed by the sex and violence – much like a Quentin Tarantino movie or a graphic novel. Which leads to the question – is this what it’s come to? A society where brutality is normalised? Are we all becoming a little bit like Maeve?
There’s a large dose of social commentary in Psychopaths Anonymous. Religion is a recurring theme, specifically questioning the existence of a God in a world where people are inherently destructive and self-absorbed. Social media plays a role, the author critiquing users’ obsession with sharing their lives with the world, whether it’s taking a photo of a meal or proclaiming your husband or girlfriend the greatest love of your life seeking validation from your followers. Or at the other end of the spectrum, people who feel the need to change the world on social media, posting about worthy causes but doing very little to change anything in the real world.
Carver laments the death of privacy, linking to humanity’s addiction to social media and the ease with which false information can be disseminated and presented as fact, only be lapped up by its gullible consumers.
Psychopaths Anonymous is signature Will Carver and then some. It’s as violent, graphic, dark and as twisted as they come. He exposes the hidden aspects of human nature and how we can’t control the desires which form part of who we are. This isn’t for the fainthearted, but it’s extreme and relentless – unlike anything else you’ll currently find on your local bookshop’s shelves.
Also read our review of The Beresford, Will’s standalone novel released earlier this year or another book about psychopaths, Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars
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