Where to begin with a book like this? ‘‘Good Samaritans’ by Will Carver ,published by Orenda Books , leaves a bitter aftertaste in your mouth…not as bad as washing your mouth out with bleach (a recurring motif in the book is how many bottles it takes to ‘clean’ a body) but it will leave you feeling a bit grubby, a bit used and also hoping you never,EVER meet anyone as toxic as the people in this book.
It starts with a misdirected call and escalates in full blown obsession and murder.
There are more than 3 bodies in this book, I counted at least 5,three is just the beginning. The principle ones are women who have been found murdered, cleansed and wrapped in plastic miles away from London, where they lived..
I am unsure if it was intentional to slyly wink at Twin Peaks by naming one of the women Teresa ‘Palmer’, referencing Laura Palmer,similarly wrapped in plastic,cleansed and a bystander in her own murder.
Also the beleaguered detective, Inspector Pace-his slow but steady descent into being driven mad by his inability to solve this case makes his name ironic.
Hadley Serf, a young woman with a ‘go nowhere’ job, multiple suicide attempts behind her and fractured relationships, picks up the phone to call ‘The Samaritans’. Instead, due to a fault-or fate?-she is connected to Seth.
He is another person in a dead end life who is so deep in misery , so entwined in a marriage of convenience for himself and wife Maeve-neither lacks the energy to actually change their situation-that he uses his work contact book to randomly call strangers night after night in the hope that someone, anyone will talk to him.
Who she should have gotten is Ant, erstwhile volunteer whose best friend hung himself . This set Ant on the path of wanting to save others by volunteering for the Samaritans.
Ant becomes obsessed with saving Hadley. Seth becomes obsessed with having Hadley. Maeve wonders how her life has gone so horribly off kilter. Inspector Pace talks to these people through newspapers and television snippets in the background of their lives. The dead women lie there, waiting to be noticed.
All of these people are terrible.
Inspector Pace has a martyr complex.
Hadley(an ambiguously named woman)wants saving but she isn’t sure what from. Her surname, ‘Serf’ suggests her role in the plot.
‘Seth’ in Biblical terms, was the son that Adam had after Cain killed Abel. He was born as a replacement for the murdered Abel, and lived for 912 years, so it could be suggested that this Seth, is ironically named as nothing about him is virtuous and noble.
‘Maeve’,means ‘she who intoxicates’ , and here she has done this to Seth. He is unable to leave and unable to connect with her at all. They are at the impasse to end all impasses.
Then there is Ant. Significantly named because he is small and wants to feel bigger. He wants more from life, his path crosses with Seth and Hadley and suddenly, half way through the book, the entire plot flips.You grasp just what these seemingly mediocre people are up to and it gives you,the reader, chills.
‘Good Samaritans’ is filthy, violent, dirtier than any amount of bleach to clean away and I saw it as a paean to modern vices. The irony of altruism, the ‘Good Samaritan’ does not exist-if indeed it ever did.
In this analogy-and please comment if you feel that I am wrong-Will Carver creates a post modern statement on the neediness of individuals and how they cannot, by virtue of being human, ever act without consequences for themselves, or others.
In ‘Good Samaritans’, Will Carver holds up a mirror and what is reflected in it is far from pretty.
Smart, wicked, gory and sexy,this is one book not to be missed.