Disclaimer: I do reveal some details of the novelette’s plot. If you would prefer to remain spoiler-free, please skip this review.
Is there no monster scarier than the serial killer? Even though werewolves, zombies, and other creatures of yore possess supernatural tricks and abilities, you can merely brush them off as figments of the imagination. You can’t do the same when serial killers are concerned. Perhaps the most frightening aspect of serial killers is the inability to identify one right away. How many times have you heard or read remarks from a shell-shocked neighbor that so-and-so was a nice, quiet person who never bothered anyone? At least once, I’m sure. The leading character of Kim Cooney’s novelette, Normalcy, with her girl-next-door good looks and demure demeanor, is one such threat. Christine may seem like someone to be easily ignored, but once she begins to swing an axe you’d do well to watch out for her.
With Normalcy, Cooney attempts a murderer’s bildungsroman (we could call it a “killdungsroman”). Christine, narrating the entire tale, confesses to always having a fondness for destruction. She first indulges her need by taking apart her dolls, then progresses to torturing insects. Her home life could easily have been taken from the pages of Southern gothic fare such as Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina and Nick Cave’s And the Ass Saw the Angel; Christine is frequently the target of her mother’s physical and verbal abuse. Her father, when he bothers to show up, uses her for sex. After turning seventeen, Christine leaves insects behind and targets humans. Her first victim? Mommie Dearest, who’s beaten to death with a baseball bat.
I can’t offer any compliments about Normalcy. I’d comment about Cooney’s plotting had she bothered to even attempt it. I often thought the story had a “This happened, then this happened” feel to it. The novelette is a hastily-written work, as if Cooney was forced to produce something under the gun. A development regarding another criminal has the potential to excite, but Cooney doesn’t do much with it. The novelette spans a total of forty-three pages so she easily could have extended scenes involving Christine’s enemy. I could overlook story flaws if Cooney showed any degree of competency as a wordsmith. Unfortunately she fails to adequately evoke any kind of terror or mood. The story is told too casually and without any form of descriptive language. I never really felt scared or even disturbed. The text is rife with grammatical errors and typos, although not all of these bothered me (at one point, the word “beetle” is spelled “beatle”. It provided a weird mental image of Christine maiming Ringo Starr or George Harrison).
Normalcy suffers from the same flaws as many other self-published works. The writing lacks polish, the plot is almost invisible, and the grammatical errors leave me in disbelief of an editor’s involvement. Her attempts at explaining the transformation into a killer don’t offer anything in regards to originality or substance. It’s a disappointment all around. I admire the fact Kim Cooney actually put pen to paper and published a book, but I cannot endorse said book.
Book Review: Normalcy – Author Kim Cooney