Sunday, 20 May 2012

Review: 'Killing Cupid' by Mark Edwards and Louise Voss

I don't quite know what to make of this. I wasn't much impressed with the only other book I've read by these authors, 'Catch Your Death', which had a great premise and some high-energy action, but suffered from poor characterisation and implausible plot devices. So it crossed my mind that this book might turn out to be a mistake. It's cheap, however, and the writing is competent enough, and on certain levels I found it enjoyable.

It's unusual to have two authors, but this book is perfect for it. The two characters, Siobhan and Alex, have alternate chapters, both written in the first person, and I presume that Mark Edwards wrote Alex and Louise Voss wrote Siobhan (although perhaps it would be more interesting if it were the other way round). Alex is perhaps the more convincing character. He comes across as a very believable young man of a certain type - socially inept, self-centred, arrogant but also insecure, and thinking about sex the whole time. Or perhaps I should say, he conforms to my idea of young men of a certain type; I don't really have a clue whether this is an accurate portrayal of the male psyche, but it seems convincing enough to me.

Siobhan is a little less believable. She's required to fulfil the role of self-confident older woman (in Alex's eyes), while also being quite timid and insecure, and it's an uneasy juxtaposition. In particular, when Alex starts stalking her, she is remarkably slow to realise what is going on. She is obsessively tidy, for example, yet she convinces herself that she left things scattered around her house, rather than remembering the missing key and realising straight away that someone had broken in. And you have to be peculiarly dense to imagine that you could order expensive lingerie online and not remember it. But it's a small point.

One thing makes me a little uncomfortable. Because we can see inside Alex's head, we know that he means Siobhan no harm. He is, in his twisted little way, courting her. He sends her flowers and lingerie and expensive clothes. OK, he breaks into her house and uses her credit card to do it, but still... She is freaked out but she also thinks - well, he's kind of cute. Wrong. There's nothing romantic or cute about a man stalking a woman. It's just creepy. Even if the point is that he's superficially normal and there's a psychotic nutter inside all of us (a fairly questionable premise, but never mind), it's still creepy, and no rational woman, surely, is going to be turned on by it. Well, not in real life, anyway, but this is fiction, and there does seem to be a huge demand for books with creepy stalker-type heroes, especially the blood-sucking type, so what do I know.

And oddly, as the plot burbles along, it actually begins to feel quite plausible. Alex's instant distraction by another woman (and sex!) is perfectly in character, and even Siobhan's slide from freaked out victim to angry obsession seems no more than mildly odd. She already has an obsessive personality after all. And each little step along the way seems, if not exactly natural, then at least not such a stretch from what went before. I would probably have enjoyed it more if I hadn't been constantly wondering - would a real person actually behave that way?

In the end, it never quite worked for me. I could admire the carefully thought out plot and the neat little twists and turns at just the right places, but the characters never quite came alive for me and the story was just a little too laboured at times. I see what the authors were trying to do and I admire the attempt to rationalise just how a couple of seemingly normal people can end up in that situation, but I'm not quite sure what position the reader is expected to take - sympathise? be horrified? be amused? or simply feel there but for the grace of God and all that? Are we really supposed to empathise with people who do this kind of stuff? I'm all for the anti-hero and likeable villains and so on, but these two are fairly charmless. An interesting idea, but for me, ultimately unsuccessful. Three stars.


  1. Hi Pauline

    Thanks for reviewing Killing Cupid and sorry you felt that it was ultimately unsuccessful. It is a very fair and well-thought-out review, though, and you raise some interesting questions.

    What we were trying to do with Killing Cupid was look at the darker, more obsessive side of love - those crazy, foolish things that most people do when they become besotted with someone - and push it to an extreme. Alex and Siobhan are both lonely, slightly messed-up people who make (lots of) mistakes, and we were hoping that our readers would be able to empathise with them. At the same time, we wrote it as a black comedy because we think that some of the things they do are so absurd that you have to laugh... It's been really interesting reading reactions to the book. Some people find it creepy, others say it's hilarious; we hope that lots of people will find it both funny and scary.

    Thanks again for your review - it's always a pleasure to read a constructive review and I'll be happy to get a review copy of our next book, The Antidote, to you later in the year. The Antidote is the sequel to Catch Your Death. I know you weren't a big of CYD but maybe you'll like The Antidote more!

    Best wishes

  2. Mark, thanks for your nice comments. I tend to be somewhat robust in my reviews, so it's always a relief when an author can see the positive side of that!

    Don't take this the wrong way, but I'd rather you didn't send me a review copy. I have a policy always to pay for the books I review, because I cherish my independence. I might possibly accept an ARC for one of my favourite fantasy authors, if I planned to buy the book no matter what, but my reading of other genres is much more random. I'll take a look at 'The Antidote' when it comes out, and if it catches my interest I'll buy and review it in the usual way.

    But thanks for the offer and I wish you both every success with your writing in the future.


  3. No problem at all. And thanks!