Published April 27th, 2023 by Hodder & Stoughton
Mystery, Thriller, Suspemse, Psychological Thriller
Welcome to my review of the deliciously dark debut, Death of a Bookseller, which was the Squadpod Book Club pick for April. Thank you to Hodder and Stoughton for the gifted copy of the book.
A BOOKSHOP. A TRUE CRIME CASE. A DEADLY FRIENDSHIP.
THE UNMISSABLE DEBUT THRILLER.
Roach – bookseller, loner and true crime obsessive – is not interested in making friends. She has all the company she needs in her serial killer books, murder podcasts and her pet snail, Bleep.
That is, until Laura joins the bookshop.
Smelling of roses, with her cute literary tote bags and beautiful poetry, she’s everyone’s new favourite bookseller. But beneath the shiny veneer, Roach senses a darkness within Laura, the same darkness Roach possesses.
As Roach’s curiosity blooms into morbid obsession, it becomes clear that she is prepared to infiltrate Laura’s life at any cost.
“The path to understanding the human condition was soaked in blood and guts, it was stalked by serial killers and sadists and mass shooters, and it was laced with upsetting stories of violence and death, of neglect and abuse. If we really wanted to better ourselves as a society, we had to be prepared to deal with the unsavoury parts as well as the nicey-nice parts.”
Deliciously dark, sinister, disturbing and addictive, Death of a Bookseller is one of those books that grabs you by the throat on the first page and doesn’t let go. True crime, books, toxic female friendship, and obsession; this book had everything my dark heart loves and I was on the edge of my seat from start to finish.
I love a book with a complicated and unreliable protagonist, and this has two of them. Roach and Laura are both unlikeable yet magnetic characters who seem to have little in common. Laura is a bubbly, outgoing, social butterfly who loves bookselling and writes found poetry to illuminate the lives of victims of violent crime, while Roach is a strange, macabre loner who is obsessed with true crime and views customers as a nuisance. Roach thinks the pair are destined to be friends, but Laura wants nothing to do with her. Determined to win Laura over, Roach foists herself upon her in a way that’s oppressive and deeply uncomfortable, her obsession becoming increasingly fanatical until it spirals out of control. But Roach’s obvious psychopathic tendencies, I couldn’t see her as the ‘bad guy’. Laura’s mean-girl antics rubbed me the wrong way and left me ultimately sympathising with Roach, even after we dig deeper and discover the fractured girl haunted by trauma that is hiding beneath Laura’s mask. Yet overall, there is no clear villain and no winner, just two very troubled young women.
“My life really started when I gave up trying to fit in, when I settled into myself, like an alligator sinking into a swamp.”
Alice Slater is a debut author to watch. She knows how to sink her claws into her reader and not let go, making this one of those books you clear your schedule and lock out the world for. From the opening pages something sinister crackles in the air and the tension continues to build as you read, reaching a fever-pitch as we approach the finale; I can still feel the adrenaline coursing through my veins just thinking about it. Exquisitely written, astutely choreographed, and intricately crafted, Slater takes the reader to some unsettling places in her exploration of the dark underbelly of female friendship, toxic obsession, and the darkness that can lurk inside a twisted mind. She also exposes our infatuation with true crime and reminds us that these monstrous acts are not merely for our entertainment, but leave behind a ripple effect of grief, heartbreak and trauma that can last a lifetime. But don’t get it twisted, this isn’t a sombre novel, and to offset the darkness there are lots of cringey, awkward moments and ink-black humour that lightens the mood. And how can we forget Roach’s giant African land snail, Bleep, who slowly crawls along the bottom of the book’s pages in a brilliant creative detail.
Quirky, compulsive, messy, chilling, and dark as night, Death of a Bookseller is one of those books that manages to be both relatable and off-the-wall insane. So, if like me you enjoy uncomfortable, creepy novels about dark things, then this is a book you have to read.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Alice is a writer, editor and ex-bookseller from London. She co-hosts the literary podcast What Page Are You On?, and edited Outsiders: A Short Story Anthology (3 of Cups Press). Her fiction has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and appeared in Dear Damsels, Cunning Folk, and On Anxiety (3 of Cups Press). She is working on her first novel.
BUY THE BOOK:
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Signed Indie Edition – Goldsboro Books | The Feminist Bookshop
Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxxx
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