Jonny Glynn’s The Seven Days of Peter Crumb is a real horror novel. That’s not to say it’s non-fiction, for this is a lovingly crafted, thankfully invented, tale of debauched serial-killer-style madness. And by that we’re talking genuine ‘chaos in the pre-frontal cortex’ type-stuff, not just ‘two pencils up the nose and boxer-shorts on the head’-inspired fakery.
It’s also a book touched with moments of brilliance, but equally counterbalanced with an at times misdirected, overabundance of violence. When it was published in 2007, more than one comparison was made to Brett Easton Ellis’ stunning psychological thriller/horror An American Psycho, and it’s not hard to see how such comparisons were drawn.
Glynn’s London-based novel is grubby and raw. Told in first person perspective from the character of the title, it maintains a stream-of-subconscious-styling throughout. Peter Crumb is going to die in seven days, the course has been set and nothing can be done about it. His path has been set by himself, or his alternate personality that’s skulking occasionally nearby, denigrating and motivating him in equal measure.
He takes direction in part from newspaper headlines, mostly because he wants to, and though there appear to be patterns to his murders, they are in effect random, guided by misdirected and paranoid perceptions gestated by his genuine mental instability. It’s this that sets the tone of the book with great ill ease; we aren’t watching the Machiavellian and brutal machinations of some Hannibal Lecter-type character. No.
We’re watching someone, likely once normal, unwind in a desperate pool of misery. We’re also watching their steely resolve to inflict suffering and death upon various innocent people that they come across. It’s not pleasant stuff by any means, and the everyday associations of Peter as he goes about his business, his humour, his intelligence and geniality often contrast with his schizoid and black natured side.
In The Seven Days of Peter Crumb there’s blood and killing galore, and buckets of misanthropy to match the viscera. There’s also light-hearted reflection on life however, but it is too often contrasted with similar views through darker glass. Then, to make things even more unpalatable for one’s digestion, there’s a faint thread weaving throughout that suggests firmly that Peter himself may have been a victim of something terrible too. A daughter, Emma, is mentioned throughout the book. And the more she’s mentioned, the more the reader begins to question the association, the nature of a dreadful and hinted-upon-crime and just how many victims that will have had.
The book opens with a preface quotation from Alexander Solzhenitsyn, as to how we all carry evil in our hearts; that evil is a part of the human condition. Then a page on and Peter himself states that he is not good, and that he is not evil. Give his mental condition, that’s likely the case, but disturbed and psychotic he definitely is. The text does raise genuinely interesting, but troubling, questions throughout.
However, the book doesn’t really make the most of itself as a vehicle to explore these questions. It seems at times to use them as an excuse to go horribly splatter-punk in a contemporary literary environment, without the normal connotations such a type of writing might bring. This makes it feel something of a bit of a waste at times. But then these are difficult questions, and the answers aren’t easy, or possibly they don’t exist at all. Possibly too, there’s the idea that the element of dark comedy is uncomfortable given the conflict going on inside the narrator’s brain. And at times Crumb can be very funny. But he is also a racist, and a misogynist. He is so many things that are wrong, and very few right. Perfect only in his gross imperfections, allied with a short psychotic fuse, maybe.
The Seven Days of Peter Crumb is, honestly, one of the most disturbing books that I’ve read. Part of me wondered whether or not to review it for Spooky Reads, as I thought its horror and overall connotations a little too disturbing, out of place maybe. But then, this site is about reviewing and discussing books of all types that fall under the umbrella of horror, so I wrote down my musings and a score summing up my overall opinions.
Which brings us to the end of the review. Should you read this book: definitely. Will you enjoy it: possibly not. Will you regret having read it: I think not. Whilst I’m not of too delicate a stomach I do judge and make calls on ‘overkill’ of viscera and graphic violence in text where I see it. If relevant, then fine, but if I feel it’s purely overkill for the sake of it, then this reflects in my scores of books. That’s however strong they may otherwise be in the overall scheme of things.
Buy this book: [amazon-product text="UK" type="text"]1846270782[/amazon-product]/[amazon-product region="us" text="US" tracking_id="spooread-20" type="text"]0061351482[/amazon-product]