First published back in April of 2014, British author Guy Portman’s second novel ‘Necropolis’ combined a tightly-executed plot with an abundance of wit and satirical flare, to form a wickedly light-hearted take on the likes of ‘American Psycho’ (1991).
Dyson Devereux had been employed at the Burials and Cemeteries department at Newton Borough Council for the last seven years. And now that Dorothy, the Head of the Department, had passed away, he had moved on up the food chain and was now the new Head of the Department.
However, the promotion did not afford Dyson any escape from the bureaucracy of the workplace. Day-in-day-out, Dyson would have to put up with the tedium of witless callers, the blatant bad taste of the general public, and the idiotic drivel that could only be described as nerve-grinding ‘office speak’.
But when Dyson notices the seemingly remarkable similarity between their new employee, Kiro Burgan, and the alleged war criminal Darko Draganovic – a man who was responsible for a number of deplorable actions in his homeland including some pretty harsh ethnic cleansing – Dyson begins to ponder the possibility that they are one-in-the-same man. Furthermore, after doing a little internet research, Dyson learns that a nationalist Croatian vigilante organisation are offering a bounty of two point five million Euros for the capture of Darko, alive. A figure that demands at least a little further enquiry into the matter.
And so, whilst dealing with the banality of day-to-day life in Burials and Cemeteries, clashing swords with the single-minded management, and fending off such atrocities as bright pink hard-plastic communal benches from their newly developed cemetery plot; Dyson sets out formulating plans to uncover if their new recruit is possibly the very same war criminal - Darko Draganovic.
However, at the same time, Dyson has his casual girlfriend, Eva, to contend with. Living in the flat upstairs, the young Croatian had been slipping downwards on a slippery slope laced with drug abuse and escalating debts. Furthermore, Eva has quite noticeably taken to spending more and more time in Dyson’s flat; no doubt to catch-up with X Factor on his tv rather than for actually to see Dyson himself.
But Dyson didn’t mind all that much. After all, most things didn’t faze him. His life was working out pretty much how he’d wanted it to. People listened to him. People respected him. And women loved him. But why wouldn’t they? He was suave, witty, charming and intelligent. He knew the power in compliments and how best to impress those around him. He could play on moods and wrap people around his little finger. He what some would describe as a peoples person.
But then there were always some pretty big pros and cons of being a sociopath…
The novel sets out as if it’s an almost exact replica of Bret Easton Ellis’ cult novel ‘American Psycho’ (1991), only with a somewhat lighter air to it. Indeed, author Guy Portman has even adopted a toned-down version of our lead character’s overwhelming focus on astonishingly banal details. Indeed, within the first few pages our principal character, Dyson Devereux, becomes instantly absorbed in descriptions of his ties and general clothing; of the intricate details of the funeral business, and of describing everything to the very fullest of detail.
However, it soon becomes clear that Portman’s novel has its own merits in which it quickly establishes itself upon. Dyson Devereux is a charming and incredibly witty character. It’s hard not to love him for who he is. And quite deservedly, he is the sole focus of the entire story. Accordingly, Portman has created a character that well-and-truly makes the story. Without Dyson Devereux, the tale is absolutely nothing. With him, it’s a smart and incredibly humorous romp; bursting at the seams with just the right amount of unreserved social commentary.
Expect to be wooed by the unrelenting charm and unparalleled good taste of Devereux. The man can ensnare a woman within seconds. He is the colourful, fake plastic cheer of the office environment. And beneath that highly-glossed persona, is someone with his own clear agenda. A man who’s not afraid to take risks should the need present itself. And through the sudden revelation that he may well have a highly sought after war criminal, one with a pretty tasty bounty over his head, within his very own workforce; Dyson begins his careful preparations to uncover the truth and hopefully collect his much-deserved reward.
Surrounding Dyson’s universe are a number of well-crafted characters, each with their own unique characteristics and interactions with our lead man. Eva is a drug addict whose life is quickly descending into an abyss of debt and self-destruction. Nevertheless, Dyson has a strange fondness for the girl which is outside of his usual sociopathic tendencies.
Dyson’s immediate boss, Sunita, is the thorn in Dyson’s side. Sunita is very much the typical characterless managerial type, whose presence is nearly always one of utter irritation. As such, it offers up an entirely reasonable and realistic premise with an abundance of situational conflict and frivolous transgression between Dyson and herself.
Dialogue is laced with dry wit throughout the length of the novel; adding an extra layer of amusing charm to its delivery. Indeed, with such a character-driven construction, Portman has absolutely excelled at bringing out every quality that can be brought to the surface in the novel’s overall remit.
It’s hard to describe the novel as anything other than a magnificent foray into the mind of a quite loveable sociopath. There’s no real big surprises or jaw-dropping twists lurking behind any of the corners; but rather it offers a solidly-paced soiree deeper and deeper into the meticulous scheming of a truly enchanting anti-hero. But it’s the well-crafted and perfectly executed satirical observations, along with the dry wit and devious humour that makes ‘Necropolis’ such a delight to read.
Order yourself a grand café latte extra hot with soy milk from Starbucks, cast away anyone who attempts to play Celine Dion in your immediate vicinity, and strap yourself in for one hell of a quirky, character-rich read. Effortlessly enjoyable.
It’s ‘American Psycho’ (1991) with a smirk...
The novel runs for a total of 298 pages.
© DLS Reviews