Publisher: Transworld Publishers | Imprint: Black Swan | Publication date: 4th December 2014 | Edition: Paperback
“My name is Raphael Ignatius Phoenix and I am 100 years old – or will be in ten days’ time, in the early hours of January 2000, when I kill myself. Observant readers will notice that my initials spell R.I.P. A most fitting coincidence, as you will shortly discover…”
This is a dark, comical and stark-raving bonkers book, and I really couldn’t help but like it!
It’s a unique and bizarre story narrated entirely by a serial killer who decides take his own life on his one hundredth birthday, which happens to fall on the dawn of the new Millennium, 1st January 2000.
Before he leaves this world he starts to prepare an unusual suicide note, which will serve as a detailed account of his ten victims over the last ten decades. But Raphael Ignatus Phoenix (initials uncannily spelling R.I.P) doesn’t undertake this task in a traditional manner, such as writing it down on paper – nope, he embarks on writing his ‘testimony’ neatly in felt tip pen on the walls of a remote, old castle that he’s been staying in for the last 15 years.
The most recent death is recounted first, until we reach his very first murder.
Each ‘death’ takes up a chapter in the book itself and subsequently a wall or two of the castle in its own right. Despite sounding like a gruesome read, each section includes humorous anecdotes surrounding these events.
With the exception of killing some of the more annoying people he meets in his life, not always intentionally I might add, there are three constants throughout: a small pill, a photograph, and his childhood friend, Emily, who turns up to assist him at opportune moments in his life. You get to learn more about each of them as the book progresses – the realisation is unexpectedly sad.
You also learn his father was a wacky inventor, Emily’s father was a chemist (hence, the pill) and his entire life has left him stumbling from one freakish event to another.
The ending is a little surreal, but there’s a cracking rhythm to the story matched only by the exceptional humour.
Overall, there are circumstances in this book that ordinarily you really shouldn’t find amusing, but the writing’s just so damned brilliant it’s impossible not to titter at them. If you like quirky, dark humour and feel like reading something completely different from the norm, I’d definitely recommend this one.
If I may, I’ll just share one last thing from the book with you before you go. This one is from the Nannybrook Residential Home:
The unfortunately named Mrs Yurin celebrated her 106th birthday whilst I was there, although somewhat to my amusement, she died in middle of it. Just keeled over into her birthday cake whilst trying to blow out the candles. Her 88 year old daughter, also a resident, was inconsolable, not least because she’d spent four days icing the thing…
Note about the author: This book was published posthumously as the author, Paul Sussman, sadly passed away in 2012. In the foreward of this book his wife tells us how the manuscript came to light to enable readers to finally enjoy it.
(Huge thanks to the publishers for sending a copy of the book from a competition they were running – without which I’d never have discovered this amazing story.)