Psychopaths Anonymous by Will Carver

From the PR: “When AA meetings make her want to drink more, alcoholic murderess Maeve sets up a group for psychopaths.

Maeve has everything. A high-powered job, a beautiful home, a string of uncomplicated one-night encounters. She’s also an addict: a functioning alcoholic with a dependence on sex and an insatiable appetite for killing men. When she can’t find a support group to share her obsession, she creates her own. And Psychopaths Anonymous is born. Friends of Maeve.

Now in a serious relationship, Maeve wants to keep the group a secret. But not everyone in the group adheres to the rules, and when a reckless member raises suspicions with the police, Maeve’s drinking spirals out of control. She needs to stop killing. She needs to close the group. But Maeve can’t seem to quit the things that are bad for her, including her new man…”

“I mean there’s obviously no God, and if there was, He’s not sitting around thinking ‘I need to make Jill quit the booze because the red wine turns her into such a cunt.’ That can’t be right. Even if you are everywhere and see everyone and know everything and know everything, you don’t give a fuck about Jill, she’s so annoying.”

This is not your standard thriller, but then Will Carver’s novels are anything but standard, he continues to carve a unique space in the genre with novels that sharply tongued and plotted, deliciously dark in humour and bite and meticulously crafted. Psychopaths Anonymous is another slice of the very good stuff from an exceedingly talented writer – reading a Will Carver you know that not only is this the work of a skilled wordsmith but one who clearly bloody loves it too, it means there’s really no way to read his work and not revel in the joy of doing so.

Yes; Psychopaths Anonymous paints with the darker colours on the palette – there’s murder, very bloody murder in fact, a lot of sex, murdered gangsters with genitalia stuffed into their mouth and plenty of scathing takes on humanity – but it does so with a decidedly insightful voice and a wicked sense of glee and wit that is, if you’ll pardon the pun, addictive. There is a theory that if you’re only exposed to one narrative voice – be it in literature, film, television etc – for a certain amount of time you will inevitably find elements of it in which you identify similarities to yourself. It’s why novels where the protagonist is far from a match for the reader still work, even if they’re capable of the most horrific acts.

How many people watched ‘Dexter’ and still enjoyed watching the character’s breakfast routine with each new episode’s credits as if they were watching an old friend, even if he’d spent the previous episode cutting people into small pieces and dumping them in the ocean? Will Carver’s novels are often populated and narrated by some of the most unpleasant characters guilty of the most heinous acts – one of his former novels was narrated by evil ‘itself’ – and yet his skill lies in a superb ability to find a way in which we can not only find an element to relate to but even agree with some of their most scathing of commentary.

Take Maeve for example. Maeve, as a character and narrative voice is massively compelling – a woman who, on the face of it, has it all and has it all nailed down. Yet it’s a facade – beneath that surface, not particularly too far beneath, is a dangerous whirlwind of a psychopath with a very well managed alcohol addiction and an itch to kill.

And yet… for a supposed ‘psychopath’ – someone lacking in empathy – her actions seem fuelled by a sense of injustice or righting wrongs, whether to her or not, and there are more than a few signs of compassion that peek through the cracks – enough, at least, to ensure you’re ‘with’ this narrative voice rather than feeling your reading the rantings of a Jeffrey Dahmer, say. Is she acting out of a sense of righting wrongs inflicted on those who have penetrated her facade and actually connected to her in some off-kilter way or are is it merely an excuse to indulge in another addiction, like that ‘well nothing important happened today but it is Friday’ excuse for an extra drink? It’ll all depend on your take on Maeve really, how much you’ve already found yourself identifying with in her or her reliability as a narrator.

She’s got no time for dickhead clients – I failed to supress my laughter at her comments during a meeting – or phonies and those that would force either themselves or their beliefs on others and Carver get’s these across in a darkly humours and spot on commentary that you can’t help but agree with. Of course, the difference is that Maeve tackles it in a more ‘hands-on’ way and ends up with a head in her fridge and the reader doesn’t.

It all makes for fucking brilliant fiction and a book that’s hard to put down as you tear from page to page like every other Will Carver novel to date, in fact. A wicked, not-at-all guilty pleasure that’s a joy to read and another great book from an outstanding talent.

My thanks as always to Karen at Orenda for feeding my particular addiction and to Anne Cater for inviting me to review as part of the blogtour.

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