“So this thriller is, in part, a comment on a world where privacy and anonymity are always fading. But overemphasising that aspect of the story might mean treating Clarkson as a cipher and ignoring his very particular qualities. He quotes the Buddha often (not just when he wants to torture listeners) and wears T-shirts advertising his beliefs, but we can tell from the start that something is off, that a time-bomb is ticking away. He reminded me a little of the protagonist of Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho — a bonafide psychopath or someone with a rich inner life using fantasy to cope with the moral decay around him. Notwithstanding his name, he also has some of the markers of a modern-day Karna, the Mahabharata anti-hero, who is mentioned in the book: full of anger because of his inability to belong, lashing out at the world while simultaneously trying to fit into it, using skill with weaponry to carve out a place for himself.
This is a suspenseful narrative, its urgency growing as Clarkson’s potential victims — including the one person who is genuinely sympathetic to him, a girlfriend named Michelle — drift in and out of view, and as his encounters with a sceptical detective become edgier. The prose is somewhat clunky in places (“I stepped on the staircase. It had been lying undisturbed. Now, it resented being woken up. It creaked and complained with a long, drawn-out sound”), but I couldn’t always tell if this was a shortcoming or a way of conveying Clarkson’s solemn awkwardness — whichever the case, the voice does fit the character.”