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review 2016-02-16 20:01
Graveyard Love By Scott Adlerberg
Graveyard Love - Scott Adlerberg

Something´s got to give.

Reading Graveyard Love feels like watching a more paranoid, neurotic version of something Hitchcock would have approved of. The title of the book clearly is already a statement of intent and can be read literally as well as metaphorically, or rather in an "Urban Dictionary" way, where one controls the other (aka "love") that one ends up dead.

Kurt, a 35 year old writer who moved back home to, rather reluctantly, write his mother´s memoir becomes obsessed with a woman visiting a graveyard across their home. From observing her via a telescope to outright stalking her his mental state degenerates more and more. Or rather Kurt has always been one with mental health issues while Scott Adlerberg pulls back the curtain of his insanity. Never mind what he thinks are rational justifications for what he is doing.

Kurt and his emotionally manipulative mother already have an unhealthy relationship to begin with, and both are driven by obsession. Her obsession is to finish the book, and ultimately competes with her dead husband, about whom Kurt has written an well received article when he was murdered. Ironically, or not so ironically, by a fanatical stalker. The Oedipus complex is strong here to be sure with a Freudian take, "that home and horror are intimately connected."

As a character in this first person narrative Kurt is one who would make a good poster child for an unreliable narrator. He repeats himself often and disgresses and of course every move he makes he justifies with NOT being one of *those* stalkers.

"Tracking her movements violated decency to an appalling extent. But I did my stalking invisibly."

He has his clear moments of self-awareness, and is not without humor, iE when he says to himself:

"Gimme a break. I may have problems, I thought, but I´m no Norman Bates."

It is rather easy to see how Psycho would be the most normal of comparisons to make. I think it´s more of a red herring than anything else - the film is simply too popular -, as there are two more films mentioned in the book which I consider to be more important to understand the story. The one, The Skin I Live In, by Pedro Almodovar and ... I´m not telling. Interesting enough the Almodovar title is transcripted in a slight different manner, even I obviously don´t know if done intentionally to differentiate between fiction and fiction (or is it reality vs reality?) or it simply being an error overlooked by the author and/or editor.

There are grim scenes but most importantly Kurt doesn´t feel anything anymore. Neither empathy, nor loss, nor agony, even he thinks he does, and acts on primal instincts only aka sexual desires mostly. He is detached from everything that are considered normal human feelings which makes the whole narrative an rather uncomfortable read by default.

Sex and death are interlinked throughout the book, and while it´s neither a sexual book nor an utter violent one per definition, glimpses of both can be seen everywhere, and are in the end one and the same. It´s not a romantic love story by any stretch of the imagination, but one of obsessive desires which gets out of control. Most interesting I found the strongly implied different ménage à trois. Kurt, and his mother and Catherine - the woman of his desire so to speak; while there is Catherine, her boyfriend and the dead woman she visits in the graveyard, and any variations there of.

As interesting is the reversal of the surveillance theme. When a dead body is involved (ahem), and Kurt and his mother due living nearby the graveyard, are questioned by the police. Even more so when Catherine turns everything up side down. Until that moment, give or take, there is a false sense of calmness but then I think I was never caugh so off guard by any book ever.

The atmosphere of the upper part of New York (? I am not familiar with NY at all, so I plead ignorance) in the snow-y white winter setting is strong, and at a guess as much a statement - the virgin white of fallen snow - while it being a contrast to the narrative as such.

Graveyard Love is a straight forward psychological thriller with no creative cul-de-sacs, and as noir as it probably gets, while lingering into horror territory. I freely admit I have now nightmares during the day since I am such a wuss. I was okay for half of the book, until the narration gets a tad too uncomfortable for my taste, coz for everything´s holy, that is for sure ... not something I want to experience myself. Whether I like the characters or not is not really a question, but the story itself gripped me even yeah, like nope. I am simply not made for that stuff, that is all. The author did his job well, that´s for sure.

Nevertheless it would make an interesting case study of obsessive behavor when trying to dissect all those variations of the relationship-angles mostly and how a seemingly "normal" person can take such a nose dive into an abyss where there is no point of return anymore. When every last breath is sucked out of...

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