This week’s book review is Psychosomatic by Anthony Neil Smith.
They say that if the author doesn’t catch the reader by the end of the first page, they’ll never catch them. Some people are more forgiving and give the author the first chapter to hook them. Psychosomatic hooks you from the first sentence:
“Because Lydia didn’t have arms or legs, she shelled out three thousand bucks to a washed-up middleweight named Cap to give her ex-husband the beating of his life.”
Anthony Neil Smith starts this novel with the accelerator mashed to the floor, and doesn’t let up until the last line. Not one of the characters are likable. They are petty thieves, murderers, rapists, manipulators, thugs, drug dealers, and crack whores. Smith makes no illusions about trying to redeem any of them.
From a readers point of view, it is a roller-coaster ride of a novel, with twists and turns and dives that lift your rear off the seat and hills that send your stomach to the floor. From a writers point of view, it is either suicide or pure genius. The characters are emotionally and physically handicapped. They cannot get any better than they are in the first pages. They are stunted before the story gets off the ground. And Smith pulls it off. He makes compelling characters out of the dregs of society. You’re not so much rooting for them as wondering who makes it to the last page alive.
There are so many plot threads running through the story, it would be very easy to get tangled up, but Smith twists them to perfection. This story is dark and grim, but, like a train-wreck, you can’t tear your eyes from it. The tension starts high and stays that way, the only relief coming with the humor at the ridiculous situations the characters get themselves into.
I give Psychosomatic a solid 4 bodies (stuffed into car trunks) out of 5. Good story, good dialogue, great characterization. This is not a story for the faint of heart. Certain images will probably stick with me for a long time. If you’re looking for a light and easy afternoon read, pick something else. If you’re into hard-core crime fiction, this is a book for you.
Final word: Tarmac. When you get there, you’ll know.
Next week: I really have no idea. I could lie and say it’s a surprise, but the truth is I don’t know what I will have time to do. I’ll tentatively say The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux, but no promises.