First published in September of 2016, British author Phil Sloman’s novella ‘Becoming David’ offers up a compelling cannibal story which interestingly focuses more upon the psychological instability of the story’s psychotic serial killer than it does his gruesome deeds.

DLS Synopsis:
Richard Lodge is a man who leads a methodical, organised and purposefully controlled life.  It’s therefore no surprise that his day job is that of an accountant.  He craves order.  Simplicity in the underlying formulaic correctness of things.  Operating from out of his house in the quiet suburbs of London, he works as his own boss – tidying clients’ books up and dealing with their misguided endeavours at tax evasion.

Twice a week his cleaner, Natalie, comes to his immaculately kept home to keep it as clean and pristine as possible.  She’ll work from room to room, making sure everything is perfect.  But one area is kept out of bounds– the door permanently bolted shut.  The basement.  A place where Richard does his other work.  A place where he’s allowed himself to drop his reluctant veneer of humanity.

Richard is single.  It’s the way he likes it.  The freedom allows him to enjoy life.  To find men on the internet and then meet up with them.  He’d gotten good at reeling them in.  He knew he had the looks along with an abundance of charismatic charm.  It was how he operated.  How he enjoyed life.  It was what he thrived on.

Richard would always get them to come back to his home.  His final act in the game of seduction would be played out there.  It was a cat and mouse game he always won.  Once they were back at his home they would be his.  His to enjoy.  His to taste.  His to kill.

It was a cycle that had been working well for Richard for quite some time.  His occasional kills brought him weeks’ worth of flesh for his fine dining.  A delicacy he enjoyed almost as much as the kill itself.

But when Richard brings back David, a man he kills and then consumes the flesh of, he starts to experience something that’s worryingly odd.  Even though David’s life has been extinguished, he starts appearing him around his house.  The apparition taunts him.  Watches over him.  And ever-so-slowly, Richard starts becoming him…

DLS Review:
Ha!  This is a clever and really quite intriguing story.  Author Phil Sloman delivers a short and snappy little tale utilising a Hannibal Lector meets Patrick Bateman type of principal character who’s sociopathic tendencies have led to a series of meticulous killings.  Murders which ultimately result in the consumption of his victim’s flesh.

So far, so run-of-the-mill serial killer thriller-cum-psychological horror.  However, Sloman has an interesting little spin on the whole premise.  One of his recent victims (named David) suddenly starts appearing around Richard’s house post death and dismemberment.  At first it’s a complex shock to the system, but gradually the strange apparition starts tormenting the increasingly perplexed killer.

Again, the concept of a deceased victim haunting their murderer isn’t exactly new ground.  But it’s where Sloman takes his tale next that brings in the real interest.  Gradually, day-by-day David starts to infiltrate the body and mind of Richard.  To take him over, and through doing this, Richard ever-so-slowly starts to become his victim’s victim.

The evolution of the tale is incredibly captivating.  Furthermore, Sloman’s skill at fleshing out his characters enhances the story no end.  From very early on it’s easy to see the psychotic Richard Lodge as a real person.  With such an extremity in his personality, it’s nothing but a testament to Sloman’s writing skills that a serial killer of this nature and magnitude can be so believable.  So unnervingly convincing.

Sloman’s capturing of just the right atmosphere and his projecting of the required sense of urgency, suspense or confusion, is absolutely spot on.  Your pulse fluctuates all over the shop throughout the tale – quickening when the drama starts to escalate and firing on all cylinders when things get nail-bitingly intense.

However, the violence never veers towards the gratuitous or overly gruesome.  As mentioned within the ‘Author’s Notes’, Sloman’s not gone for a grim and bloody affair with his novella.  Instead he’s gone for a more thought-provoking read.  He’s taken his idea (the mirror image of an otherwise good man who does bad things - i.e. what would happen if a bad guy developed a conscience?) and let it ferment into something full of pondering intrigue and unassured purpose.  Although it’s not until around the halfway point that this underlying concept starts to really make itself known. 

Nevertheless, Sloman has plenty in his arsenal to draw you into his tale.  His writing is tight and to the point, with descriptive words used to their absolute full effect throughout the tale.  There’s also an obvious urgency behind much of the storyline.  In fact, it thunders along with a focused narrative that seems to always have an agenda lurking behind it.  Even if the action appears somewhat settled, there’s still a pulsing momentum carrying us along without a moments pause.

It’s never an easy task to offer up a story without a protagonist who the reader can feel they can root for.  Even more so if the story is a particularly character-focused one.  However with ‘Becoming David’ Sloman’s done just this – and it frigging works!

What you get with ‘Becoming David’ is a quietly unnerving tale with a thought-provoking purpose.  It’s one which sucks you into its stark and meticulous world, only to then shove you down some strange passageways where nothing is quite as black and white as it first appeared.  Throughout the novella Sloman delivers a rich tapestry of cold, crisp horror interspersed with a growing consciousness alongside a sprinkling of dark wit.  It’s thought-provoking escapism for those who like their literature just that little bit twisted.

The novella runs for a total of 109 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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