Tuesday, 10 June 2014

A Pleasure and a Calling by Phil Hogan

A Pleasure and a Calling
This is quite deliciously creepy ... let me set the scene by quoting the blurb on the jacket:

Do you remember Mr Heming?  It was he who showed you round your comfortable home, suggested a sustainable financial package, negotiated a price with the owner and called you with the good news.  The less good news is that, all these years later, he still has the key.
That's absurd, you laugh.  Of all the many hundreds of houses he has sold, why would he still have the key to mine?
The answer to that is he has the keys to them all.
William Heming's every pleasure is in his leafy community.  He loves and knows every inch of it, feels nurtured by it, and would defend it - perhaps not with his own life but, if it came to it, with yours.

This is one of those stories which takes its time – not in the sense of dragging its heels, but more like a good meal which insists that you properly savour each course. And as the tale unwinds, it is a meal of many courses with a little more of the plot and back story being revealed each time …
At the beginning of the book we share self-appointed neighbourhood watchdog William Heming’s sense of righteous indignation at the minor injustices he observes taking place around him. We even enjoy the justice he metes out to those deserving of it – even the somewhat excessive punishment received by one person, which is both ingenious and comic. But gradually William is revealed as being a rather different character than that implied at the onset; contrary to the public persona he cultivates, he is more than a mild-mannered estate agent. But as he shadows those who interest him and creates havoc on the lives of wrongdoers, his sense of justice turns out to be somewhat skewed: he appears to morally amoral – or should that be afflicted by amoral morals?  As matters progress and we discover more about William, we grow less comfortable and begin to perceive that he is less on the side of the angels than he thinks he is: nevertheless when he picks up that golf club it still succeeds in being a shock.

It’s a terrific bit of storytelling and by the end you are in two minds – will he be caught or not? And while a part of you wants him to be caught, another hopes he will escape justice himself, despite his cold blooded attitude to murder and general creepiness.  It’s a book which you won’t forget in a hurry – but which will send you scampering to change your locks …