Are you a voyeur? You might feel like one after reading this original tale by Phil Hogan. Narrated by the Mr Heming (one m, not two) who we know has the keys to all the houses he’s sold, the reader watches the watcher, waiting to see what he will do next.
I’m not sure you can put this novel into the unreliable narrator section, he isn’t. He believes what he says, and the tale he tells is of a man with an obsession. He is interested in people, the lives they lead and the objects they treasure. Mr Heming is not averse to helping others out, it is not unknown for him to want to help out when he sees help is needed, and he sees and hears such a lot as he lurks almost invisible in the small town he has made his home.
This beguiling, non-linear tale, tells the story of how young William turned from a young boy who hid in wardrobes to Mr Heming the successful estate agent with access to the keys to all the houses he has sold and lets himself into their houses to take a look at their lives with an air of impunity. One day a minor incident in a park causes Mr Heming to use his skills to exact a small piece of revenge; from this one incident and his obsessive watching of his victim, Mr Heming’s careful anonymous life cover is nearly blown and the actions he takes to protect himself become more extreme. The justification for his actions oozes out of the pages in a non-overt way. Our narrator makes no effort to convince his reader that ‘he had no choice.’ That doesn’t need to be said, of course he has taken the best action. Only on a couple of occasions do we get insights into mistakes made in his effort to keep his keys.
This was one of those books that I finished and instantly turned back to the beginning as I know I could read the whole book again and learn more than I did during the first reading. This is one very clever book, the writing is sublime, and the narrator is a man who I will never forget!
A big thank you to the publishers Random House UK for giving me a copy of this book for review ahead of publication on 27 February 2014. It is one of those books that is difficult to categorise, for me it was a literary take on crime.