Taking a page out of M. John. Harrison’s book, er, blog, here: ambientehotel.wordpress.com/imaginary-reviews/
First of all, I should like to say that if you are not familiar with the terrific work of Ursula Perquith you are sorely missing out. Her third book well lives up to the expectations. It was slightly delayed due to a fight with her publisher, but she has since changed publisher to someone who dares publish the daring work that she is writing. Her first book, for those unaware, was called World Awareness Day, and it cannot be summed up. The main conceit is about a sudden wave of awareness spreading through humans like viruses, and, well, just read it. You will understand. Her second book – more controversial than the first – was called Ursula Perquith. It details her life but it is not an autobiography, as she makes clear in the text, and she will actually stab you with a pen if you try to call it that. Now, her third book is a masterpiece and even harder to summarise than her two other books.
The book starts off innocently with a woman stepping out of a train as it halts at a station, and she then goes on to kill a person, using scissors and piano wire. Onlookers look on, but no-one does anything. She then goes on to book a hotel room, and we find out that it is the great Nordic capital of Stockholm that she is murdering in, and what’s more – we find out that this is actually a sequel to her second book, starring the same main character.
Throughout the book, she commits more and more murders. They are all very thought out and performable, except for the first one which is almost ritualistic in how willing the victim is. At the third murder, the reader – if they have not looked at the list of names and addresses in the back of the book – finds out the names of those who have been killed so far. Curiously, they all share names, addresses, and appearances with people on the Nobel Committee for Literature. As she kills them, she explains that this is fiction, and that we are sympathising with her, and that it is okay. This word “okay” repeats itself through the book like a corruption of data; at one point a whole page is just the word “okay” again and again and again until the plot resumes as if we hadn’t missed what was behind that wall of “okay”s.
One element that tantalises about this book especially is how the police handle the murders. They do not have an investigation running, but once they stop the main character when she was speeding. She explains that she thought she was on the Autobahn, and the police officer kindly explains that she is in Sweden where there are no Autobahnen. She is fined heavily. The police officer does not remark on the bloodstained dress or the almost-corpse in the back-seat, and we the reader feel this absence like a loss.
The fight that Ms. Perquith had with her publisher, as you might have guessed, was about that list of names and addresses at the back of the book. And the maps. And, I presume, though I was not privy to the conversations, the many smiley-faces after this list. And the coupons for knives that are included in the back, too.
This absolutely riveting book is of course not an “instruction manual for murdering the Nobel Committee for Literature” because they have not yet given Ursula Perquith the prize she so richly deserves. That would be ludicrous. Rather, it is an instruction manual for thinking more deeply about things, and taking action, and feeling alive. I have never felt more alive than I did when I was engrossed in this book. I did not mention her many published short stories before, but I will mention them now. She has a book coming out next year which is a collection of her best short work, entitled “Night Shits Beauty”.