Immanion Press, p/b, Â£11.99 www.immanion-press.comÂ
Reviewed by Rhian Bowley
Itâ€™s always interesting when writers write about writers, and that memory of Misery you just had isnâ€™t out of place here. Weâ€™re not talking Sarah-Jessica adverts for laptops, or Bukowskiâ€™s bourbon product-placement. No, Leeâ€™s author protagonist is not an advert for the literary profession. A few chapters into Royâ€™s life, and the formulaic thriller hack is not an advert for anything at all.
Middle-aged, alone and repressed, Royâ€™s small-minded life is continuing to be as dull and unpleasant as normal, until a chance encounter with Sej. Sej appears to be a doppelganger of a character in one of Royâ€™s novels, the secret side-project that no one else has ever read. Unfinished and destined to remain so, Royâ€™s side-line project is an indulgent fantasy novel, complete with mysticism, madness and debauchery. Roy considers it; â€˜for all its failings and inertia, the one interesting book I had ever attemptedâ€™. Not the kind of thing his crime audience want from him. And not the kind of story from which you want a character to hold you hostage, charming the neighbours into believing everythingâ€™s okay and thwarting your escape attempts. Who is Sej, what does he want with Roy, and how could any of this be real?
Lee mixes tawdry suburbia with psychological thriller and fantasy tropes, and leaves the reader guessing until the very end. Itâ€™s difficult to say much about the plot, or even the destination, of this novel without giving too much away and ruining the skilfully layered tension. Fans of her dark character studies and questioning of normality will be pleased, and her elegant prose and sly humour will be selling points for new readers.