3 out of 4 stars
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Twenty-Five Shades of Graves by Jeremy Cobbold is a dark, psychological crime novel which takes us into the psyche of a seriously troubled man. Christopher Jones has always harbored dark thoughts and a deep hatred for any form of authority. His favorite pastime is meandering through graveyards, seeking solace amongst the dead, purely because living people are such a bitter disappointment to him. As a youth, he sustained a serious head injury while trying to set fire to his school. This has resulted in some deeply psychotic episodes, and Chris has a very hard time fitting in. Under the care of a psychologist, he makes attempts to manage his issues. He tries soothing his brooding anger with trips to museums and art galleries and makes a few half-hearted attempts at socializing with his colleagues. After numerous failed jobs, we find him working as a civil servant in a government employment office - a job he hates. The routine bores him, his managers are a source of contempt, and he is continuously irked by the bureaucratic rules and regulations that he is required to comply with.
The final straw comes in the form of a new dress code introduced by management. Chris objects to being told he must wear a tie to work, and he stubbornly refuses. Things begin escalating rapidly. After venting his radical opinions online, Christopher is suspended from both his job and his union and faces dismissal. Alone and seething with fury, he turns to an enigmatic new friend called Nick for support.
Nick gives Christopher the confidence to formulate a plan. Vengeance for all the years of injustice and petty nitpicking is about to be exacted in a carefully planned and diabolically vengeful way.
The character of Christopher is beautifully developed in this story. He is portrayed as an angry and opinionated man, with extreme political views, who is completely intolerant of almost everyone and everything. Chris hates all kinds of authority and seizes any opportunity to belittle and humiliate people. He is a loner with few friends and finds himself increasingly unable and unwilling to control his aberrant tendencies.
Strangely, the author has given this unlikable person some finer qualities, such as a fondness for nature and also for animals. These are unexpected given his character. Chris is also remarkably well-read and quotes Sir Thomas More and Dylan Thomas, amongst others. He also has a wry sense of humor. For example, he makes a veiled reference to a well-known television personality who might have mistaken Chris for a ‘pervert or a weirdo’ because of his fascination with graves. Because of the notoriety of the personality in question, this made me smile.
I really enjoyed the way the story begins slowly, but then the tension mounts and the reader can feel Christopher’s frustration escalating. It becomes increasingly evident that something significant is about to happen. The story is told in the first person narrative, which is not ordinarily my preferred point of view, but it is ideal for this particular book. I really enjoyed the way the narrative draws the reader into the story, almost like a co-conspirator. This is a very engaging technique. The plot development was well-thought out and the final twist in the tale was quite captivating. I cannot fault the author for the way this story evolves.
I can, however, fault the editing. There were many grammatical errors, mostly in the form of misplaced capitals, but there were also many occasions where commas and quotation marks were used incorrectly. I also noted a few spelling mistakes. My progress through the book was slowed somewhat, having to navigate through these errors, and I found this disappointing. The formatting of the book was also strange, with line spaces after every couple of lines. This was probably due to the version I was reading, but I found it also inhibited the flow of the narrative.
For readers who are looking for a fast-paced, traditional crime novel, this is not that kind of book at all. Rather, it would appeal to readers curious about the workings of a deranged mind and to those who wonder what makes a person descend into madness and violence. It’s a thought-provoking study on how psychotic tendencies can fester and grow if left unchecked. Anyone interested in psychology would love this one.
There is a fair amount of profanity in the book. Also, the irreverent and subversive content is not appropriate for impressionable younger people, so I would recommend it only for more mature readers. People who are easily offended by statements that are not politically correct might want to give this one a miss.
I loved this book and realized early on that it is not a story to be raced through. As a taphophile myself, I found Christopher a fascinating character and I enjoyed ‘meeting’ him. Unfortunately, due to the errors, I cannot award the book a perfect rating in its present format. This is a great pity as it certainly would deserve it. It will be a rating of 3 out of 4 stars for this one, but I have every faith that once the editor has done his job it will be an excellent read. I look forward to more stories from this author.
Twenty-Five Shades of Graves
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