Saturday, October 20, 2012

Paul Cleave, or a pro's prose

Paul Cleave's The Laughterhouse offers a disgraced cop at economic loose ends, a multiple murderer who dispatches his victims in extravagant ways, and chapters narrated from inside the killer's head.

That's not the freshest recipe in the crime fiction cookbook, which is one reason I'm so impressed that the novel has held my attention so far. The book is (a back-cover blurb tells me) one of revenge, survival, and impossible choices. But the story lies in the rhythm of Cleave's sentences: short and choppy with occasional longer outbursts, as if the narrator suddenly found himself too tired to stop thinking, for chapters told in first person by the indeed occasionally exhausted detective; short, choppy, with the added distance of third-person narration for the killer's chapters.

Crime  novels where the rhythm of the prose tells the story always remind me of David Peace, and so this one does. The related but distinct rhythms of the detective's and the killer's chapters do at least as much as any plot element to suggest a kinship between the two, and my only complaint through the first eleven chapters of The Laughterhouse is that Cleave uses reference as a verb (on page 54).
Cleave's novel Blood Men won the Ngaio Marsh Award for best New Zealand crime novel in 2011, a competition for which your humble blogkeeper was one of the inaugural judges in 2010.

Read more about Paul Cleave at his Web site and about New Zealand crime fiction at Crime Watch.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Nice creepy cover that...

October 20, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I suppose that cover is atmospheric rather than referential or even allusive. It does not refer directly to anything I've run into in the first hundred+ pages, but it doesn't run counter to the book's tone, either. I've had a few second thoughts that I'll mention in a future post, but Cleave has writing chops, all right.

October 20, 2012  
Blogger MysterLynch said...

Am midway through it and dig it so far.

November 01, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The man's a pro without a doubt. Bits of that book would sound cliched if one described them, but he handles them very well.

November 01, 2012  

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