A review that originally appeared in The Third Alternative #21:-
SAFE AS HOUSES
Carol Anne Davis
The Do-Not Press pb, 246pp, £7.50
Davis’s second novel is an accomplished psychological chiller, one that focuses on the reasons for crime rather than simply cataloguing its excesses. David is a man in need of a reality check. He believes himself to be a hugely talented songwriter, an intellectual of the first water and indispensable member of staff at the health food store where he works. The reality is that his songs are crap, he flunked university and gets sacked from the store for petty theft. David compensates by ringing sex lines and abducting women to brutalise in his hideaway, the safe house. As his meek wife Jeanette comes out of her shell, thanks to the influence of student friend Wanda, her demands of David make him feel even more insecure and he is driven to increasingly desperate measures.
An interesting novel, if slightly awkward in places, it presents a portrait of a psychopath that is insightful, convincing and totally unglamorous. David is no Hannibal Lecter or Norman Bates, no victim of some grand obsession, but a sad little man who resorts to murder simply as a way of affirming his own worth. His story is a demonstration of Larkin’s observation that ‘Your parents fuck you up’, and so much of his behaviour is down to emotional traumas that were never satisfactorily resolved in childhood. The same is true of Jeanette, but to a lesser degree, and much of the book’s dramatic tension arises out of the different responses they make. Recommended.