Despite its allusions to Christian duality, Dostoevsky and existential morality, this debut novel depends more on shock value than literary value for its appeal.
Peter Crumb is a very bad man. Or perhaps a good man or a man with good intentions, but with a bad man living inside him, wrestling for his soul. Crumb converses with the bad man and generally follows his orders, one of which is that he must write everything down to compose what is apparently this book. Another of which is that Crumb must die at the end of seven days. British writer-actor Glynn constructs the novel in the form of a daily diary, one in which newspaper headlines either reflect Crumb’s unspeakable violence or spark it. “In seven days I will be dead, but for seven days I will be free. Free to realize my potential as a human being, as a man, in whatever wonderful or dreadful a way that that might be,” the bad Crumb informs the good Crumb. Yet it’s the good Crumb who embarks on a senseless spree of serial murders, and who occasionally experiences the sort of guilt that the bad Crumb never would. Since there’s little suspense once the reader (whom Crumb occasionally addresses) realizes that at least one of the Crumbs is a cold-blooded killer who murders strangers without motivation in the most gruesome ways imaginable, the devil of the plot is in the details. Whom will he kill? Whom will he spare? How will he torture his prey? And what has made Peter Crumb the way he is? The answer to the last lies in an episode less convincing than the violence, in which Crumb returns to his former wife, a woman who somehow forgives him for a crime so vile, and so senseless, that he can never forgive himself. Did he even commit that crime? Will something redeem him before the week is up?
Not for the squeamish.