Cara Massimina by Tim Parks

This has one of those irritating cover blurbs where it’s obvious why they put it there, but it’s misleading. ‘Better than Silence of the Lambs,’ says the LA Times. If that would lead you to expect something like an FBI thriller or a hunt for a serial killer, let alone a brilliant cultivated cannibal, you’ll be disappointed. I’m not sure whether it is better than that book, anyway, but that doesn’t seem a very interesting question to pursue anyway.

A more meaningful quote would be ‘If you liked The Talented Mister Ripley you’ll like this’. A clever and ambitious young Englishman (a rather more miserable specimen than Tom Ripley, but similarly psychopathic, in a very accurate sense) in Italy taking opportunities to make money, without thinking about human consequences. I’ve not read so many books so like someone else’s – and the differences don’t seem to me to go to Parks’ credit. I mentioned that his Morris is a more contemptible specimen than Ripley, and this is hammered home all too often, in little moments of whininess and all sorts of hints at minor sexual perversions that the author seems to think are to his discredit (transvestism, repressed homosexuality).

Still, if you have read all of Patricia Highsmith’s wonderful novels and stories, you could do worse. Parks gets better later (Shear is the best novel centred on geology I have read, for what that’s worth, and Europa was Booker-nominated, if that counts any more), and there is a sequel to this, which I may report back on in time.