First published back in November of 2011, British author Matt Shaw’s novel ‘G.S.O.H. Essential’ formed the fifth instalment within his ‘Peter Chronicles’ series, with this book forming a prequel to the first novel that Shaw penned in the series - ‘Happy Ever After’ (2008).

The novel was later re-released within the ‘His Name Was Peter’ (2017) complete collection, which compiled all the ‘Peter chronicles’ stories – apart from the short story ‘Before Vanessa’ (2019) – into one complete volume.

DLS Synopsis:
Finding the right partner to settle down with wasn’t easy.  Internet dating wasn’t a good fit for Peter.  Nor was meeting someone of the opposite sex at a bar or club.  No, the place where Peter found it best to meet a potential new partner was at the local supermarket.

Peter had been single for a little while and felt ready to get back on the saddle.  Recent dates hadn’t gone too well.  Peter was good-looking, charismatic and charming.  He ought to be able to find the perfect partner for himself without too much difficulty.  At least that’s how he saw it.

He’d gone to the local supermarket, to pick up a few things, as well as to see who he might bump into, when he spotted Susie.  She was one of the cashiers.  Young, attractive, with a beautiful, happy smile.  As soon as he saw her, Peter knew she was the one he’d been searching for.  His perfect partner.  And he’d do whatever it took to get her.

When the young, well-groomed and quite handsome man started up a conversation at her checkout, Susie couldn’t help but smile.  He was chatty, charming and seemed genuinely interested in her.  Which is why she agreed straight off to swap numbers and for him to cook for her at her house.

Although when it came to the date, Susie found Peter not really to be the right fit for her.  He was friendly and polite and everything.  There was just something a little odd about him.  Something a little off.  Besides, it was probably too soon for her, after breaking up with Sam.  She knew Sam had been bad for her, but she still had feelings for him.

So afterwards she sent Peter a quick text message saying she’d just like to be friends.  Plain and simple.  They’d only had the one date, so he couldn’t possibly take the text badly…

DLS Review:
Now then, it’s time to meet Peter as a young adult for the first time.  In the previous instalments to the ‘Peter Chronicles’, we’ve seen his life from conception all the way to that of a young fifteen-year-old boy.  We’ve witnessed the hardship, the gut-churningly vile acts forced upon him.  The stuff which would undoubtedly have messed with his mind.  Corrupted and warped every inch of his psyche.  It’s been a painful and incredibly sad journey to this point.  The question on your lips would of course be, what sort of man would all these heinous actions upon him have created?  The answer is slowly fed to you, spoonful by spoonful, in this incredibly sinister next instalment.

In essence what we have is a story that starts off somewhat akin to Bret Easton Ellis’ ‘American Psycho’ (1991).  Peter, now a young man in his early thirties, has a lot going for him.  Somehow, he’s managed to develop some charisma, he’s able to portray a certain degree of charm and light-hearted wit.  He’s certainly not a broken individual, as one would expect. Well, not broken in the sense of someone who can’t function in society.  Although Shaw never really mentions if Peter’s managed to hold down any jobs, or anything like that (at this stage anyway).  Furthermore, the years since he was fifteen and lost his mother, aren’t detailed at all, other than Shaw vaguely eluding to a significant female from his recent past.

The opening chapters may have you thinking the tale is going to echo Ellis’ aforementioned darkly comical serial killer classic, however, it’s not long before you realise we’re being taken along an entirely different path.  Well, not entirely different.  Peter is one fucked up, sociopathic lunatic who’s able to put up a mask of charisma and charm.  However, where Bateman was a success, where Bateman generally had it all and took whatever he wanted, poor old Peter doesn’t boast a similar successful life.

The entire story is told from two perspectives – that of Peter and that of the supermarket checkout girl Susie.  The ‘Peter’ chapters are really where the story buzzes with an energy, an irrepressible intrigue that pulls you in seemingly effortlessly.  Shaw has managed to create this entirely believable persona in Peter.  A character who becomes real.  A character with a completely fucked up vision of the world.  And you take front seat in his head.

There are so many wonderfully inspired details in this story; intricate little details to Peter which consolidate the unique character he is.  The microwave meals.  His obsessively frugal nature.  His perception of people, of how they interact, their motivations and how he perceives how they must think.  It’s incredibly well thought through.  Unnervingly realistic.  Like you’re reading something akin to Ted Bundy’s diary.

The ‘Susie’ chapters allow us to put our feet back onto terra firma.  It grounds us from the escalating madness and lets us see things with far more clarity.  This ‘saner’ perspective cleverly accentuates Peter’s delusions.  Establishes a carefully delivered juxtaposition to the fucked-up view of what’s developing.

This is a novel that once again shows the incredible versatility of the author.  How he can get into the head of his characters and reproduce the thought patterns in such a believable way.  At times its truly unnerving.  But there’s always an undercurrent of black comedy to it.  Quirky mannerisms and outrageous thought patterns, which you can help but chuckle at in a slightly guilty way.

I absolutely loved this instalment.  Here we see Shaw beginning to bring it all together.  It truly feels like a monster in the making.  A psychotic serial killer, who’s beginning to explore his devious pathway.  And the most disturbing part about it, is how it just feels so normal from behind Peter’s eyes.  It just comes so naturally.  Makes logical sense.

I’ll end this review with a small segment that sums the novel up so perfectly.  Possibly one of the best quotes from a serial killer novel, that for me, encapsulates the tale so perfectly:

“I’ll find someone else after a suitable grieving period.  I wonder, what is a suitable grieving period?  Couple of hours?  Longer?  Shorter?  I’ll need to Google it after I’ve cleared the mess up.”


The novel runs for a total of 132 pages.

© DLS Reviews

Other ‘Peter Chronicles’ instalments:



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