Scott Maucione

Mr. Heming, the narrator of A Pleasure and a Calling, is more than an uninvited guest: He’s the guest you never knew you had. Channeling the socially detached and unnerving personality of Nabokov’s Humbert Humbert, Phil Hogan creates a character that will inspire intrigue as well as ire.

Heming owns the premiere real estate agency in his small English town, which provides him a steady flow of money—and keys to most of its residents’ houses, which he uses to indulge his penchant for snooping. He takes his obsession to sociopathic levels, noting the routines and habits of every house he violates and taking home mementos of his conquests. Heming hides his fetish well, until the day he is caught sneaking through a house after a lovers’ quarrel. Readers will begin to question their own morality as they watch the protagonist go to extreme lengths to cover his tracks.

A Pleasure and a Calling takes readers into the mind of a truly disturbed man and follows the development of his psychosis. Jumping from the present day to Heming’s past, from childhood curiosity and tragedy to the inability to maintain conventional relationships as an adult, the creation of a monster is unveiled.

Hogan’s writing style echoes the creepiness of his main character. The lack of emotional adjectives and use of idiocentric phrases further solidify the darkness of our complicated narrator. This perfectly paced psychological suspense story is a roller-coaster ride through paranoia and manipulation.

 

This article was originally published in the January 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Mr. Heming, the narrator of A Pleasure and a Calling, is more than an uninvited guest: He’s the guest you never knew you had. Channeling the socially detached and unnerving personality of Nabokov’s Humbert Humbert, Phil Hogan creates a character that will inspire intrigue as well as ire.

After 117 years of operation, the Preston Youth Correctional Facility in Ione, California, shuttered its doors forever. Inspired by lives rebuilt and destroyed by the school, Peyton Marshall’s Goodhouse imagines an alternate future in which the school never closed—and juvenile corrections are based not on past behavior, but genetic makeup.

Because of a genetic predisposition toward criminality, James—along with other children like him—is legally required to live in a prison-like school from infancy to high school graduation. In their attempts to reform these possible criminals, the Goodhouse school system has no qualms about degrading, drugging and brainwashing its students. Their suffering is recounted in terse, bleak language by Marshall, a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop.

Though he’s still haunted by attacks at his last school, carried out by a terrorist organization bent on destroying those with criminal genetics, James is on his way to graduating fully reformed—until a girl opens his eyes to what the Goodhouse system and the terrorist organization really have in store.

Goodhouse moves like a thriller, slowly leaking secrets and keeping the reader in the dark. James is more of a vessel for the larger story than a complex character for the reader to dissect. He is quick to anger and often makes rash decisions. Marshall has no problem bruising and bashing him to further the story.

While depth is not found in James, the story is a tangled web of conspiracies, hidden motives, selfish acts and lies. Each new revelation moves in tandem with the others, gaining strength and excitement until the final crescendo.

After 117 years of operation, the Preston Youth Correctional Facility in Ione, California, shuttered its doors forever. Inspired by lives rebuilt and destroyed by the school, Peyton Marshall’s Goodhouse imagines an alternate future in which the school never closed—and juvenile corrections are based not on past behavior, but genetic makeup.

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