"Tony Hooper stands in shadow across the street, one amongst many in the crowd of curiosity-hounds gathered to watch a monster’s release. Seventeen years after Mitchell Norton, “the devil,” terrorized Algonquin, Illinois on a spree of kidnapping, torture and murder, the authorities release the butcher from psychiatric prison.
About the Author
"I write fiction, long and short. My writings cross over many genres and focus on diverse subjects, ranging from the mysteries of the human mind, with its fragile psychological and emotional states, to the everyday joy and anguish of life on Earth. Ultimately, characters move me – as both a reader and an author. It's all about the people. When not writing, I'm Publisher and Executive Editor at Evolved Publishing. Connect with me on my website, Facebook, Twitter, GoodReads, or via Evolved Publishing."
“Criminal Minds” is my favorite television show as of late – as a psychology major who has always been particularly interested in what prompts criminal activity, I appreciate that the show delves deeply into the criminal's mind. Viewers are given psychological profiles that help explain, not excuse, an individual's behavior (and, in some cases, remind us that rapists and murderers are people too). Reading Forgive me, Alex was akin to watching a movie-length episode of “Criminal Minds”.
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The writing...oh, the writing! For once, I cannot find anything to nitpick about regarding writing style, authorial vocabulary choice, etc. Sentences are well-formed, clean, flow incredibly well, are written in a style that draws readers into the action, and which hardly wait for a moment for a reader to wrest attention away from the text. Take, for example, this line: “Circumstances change, roads turn, and life occasionally heads off down its own path, like the impetuous child who turns and says, 'Come on, hurry up!' ” I love that image, and oh boy is that ever how life feels sometimes! :)
To be completely honest, I was surprised how well the entire book flowed considering that the author is constantly jumping between two things: time and voice. Approximately half of the book is spent in each 1978 and 1995. Voice goes back and forth mainly between Tony Hooper, an unfortunate young man who by the age 18 had already experienced far more than his fair share of tragedy, and Mitchell Norton, one who visited much of the tragedy upon Hooper. Most of the time this writing technique fails is that the jumps are not clearly signaled. Not so here. Every single switch (from point of view or time) is very clearly labeled. We know on exactly what day the speaker is speaking and the person's identity (except for one speaker whose identity we assume and find our later if our assumption is correct). Interestingly enough, we never really hear a woman speaking as the narrator, though Diamond – a male – taking on the task of writing as a female would have been very interesting. I have no doubt that he would have done exquisitely well.
One of my major quibbles with any work is that characters sound so similar I know the author's writing/speaking style is at work rather than any true character voice development. That is very much NOT the case here. Every single character is distinct from the others, has distinct motivations (cold-blooded killer, vigilante, law enforcement personnel, people with “interesting” histories, etc) who all sound exactly like themselves. By that I mean voices are clearly distinguishable from one another (for one thing, Mitchell Norton (Killer) swears a whole heck of a lot more than Tony Hooper). Linda is Linda, as Tony is Tony as Mitchell is Mitchell. Though several major characters are from the same geographical location, they have their own distinct patterns of speech and favorite phrases as actually occurs in real life. I absolutely loved that Diamond pulled this off so well, particularly as it aided in the point-of-view shifts not being extremely alarming since I was always sure who was talking.
The ending lends itself nicely to the sequel mentioned in the acknowledgments (you can bet that I'll be reading that book!), and it neatly wraps up all loose ends within the story in a way that is not so scripted as to be terribly predictable but not so off-the-cuff as to be completely startling. Each of the twists at the end (nice try, I'm not spoiling any of them for you! You need to read the book yourself!) make complete and total sense.
Actors are told all of the time they need to “show the emotion”, capture the audience and make them feel what the actor's character is feeling. Authors are similarly told they need to “show” what is going on, but on the page it can be more difficult to draw out an audience's emotions than on a stage. I will say this – it has been years since a book has made me cry....years! They have made me angry, completely enthralled me to the point where I've almost missed my mom calling out dinner, heck...they have even made me think in ways I didn't think I could think. Rarely do they make me cry. Rarely. Yet as a new mother there is a scene in the first third of Forgive me, Alex that had me teary eyed for a long time (let's just say the murderer was exercising his gruesome new hobby on a boy of 10). Diamond went to the perspective of the boy who was about to be murdered and portrayed his fear, concern for those who would yet live, and pain in a very realistic fashion, just as he portrays Tony Hooper's anger and such in a very realistic and understandable fashion (he was, after all, the boy's brother). But enough about that scene before the memory of it reminds my tear ducts they can work. Diamond is an amazing author. : )
Okay, so you probably know by now that I loved this book. Parts of it are very difficult to read, but Diamond knows just which horrible acts from the murderer to imply rather than describe in detail. In being realistic about the mentality of a killer, one must describe things that are difficult to read...simple fact of the matter. In this book, we know the answer to the all important question that plagues horror survivors – why? The murderer's motives are known, and the motives of the one hunting him become clearer and clearer as the book goes on. A rare glimpse into the mind of a killer, this book should be required reading for individuals studying to become criminal psychologists.
The Bugly (Bad/Ugly)
I had to really think to come up with something to gripe about with this book. I loved it so much! However, the surrender at the end (not telling who to whom...read it!) at the end is too easy. I didn't buy it. Sure, there are mitigating circumstances that help it make sense, but still.
My only other gripe is more of a “principle of the thing” rather than a complaint about the book itself. We know that Norton's horrendous deeds were supposedly caused by a tumor that induced hallucinations of a demon commanding Norton's actions. We also know that his brother Tommy is “a little slow”, seemingly diagnosable as mentally retarded. Certainly Norton himself is could be diagnosed with schizophrenia or a similar disorder whose major DSM criteria revolve around psychotic symptoms. Therefore, this is another book that feeds into the “crazies are dangerous” stereotype that further complicates life for someone who has a diagnosis. I'm super touchy on is topic as my undergraduate thesis was about children with psychological disorders in the school system, and a major part of my research revolved around media portrayal of those with disorders. Though the percentage of those who have psychological disorders who actually commit felonies is incredibly low, media hype has meant that the general public displays fear of those with disorders because “of course they are dangerous, crazy people are always dangerous.” Think of news stories, for example, that air after someone commits a murder – if there is anything slightly anomalous about a person's psychiatric history, the media will hop upon that anomaly with all three tripod stand feet. True, those with psychiatric concerns do commit crimes, but not all of them. Not everyone who suffers from psychotic symptoms is dangerous. Okay, I'll step off my soap box now. : )
Overall, I give this book a 9 out of 10. The only reason that it lost a point was because it feeds a problem that I have been battling for the past 4ish years – it feeds the stereotype that people who are psychologically challenged are dangerous. Other than that, this book is amazing and an absolute must read!
Novel Publicity Blog Tour Notes:
- Leave a comment on my blog. One random commenter during this tour will win a $50 gift card. For the full list of participating blogs, visit the official Forgive Me, Alex tour page.
- Enter the Rafflecopter contest! I've posted the link here, or you can enter on the tour page linked above.