by Glenn Maynard
Troy Cullen’s father has physically abused him and his mother for as long as Troy can remember. When he returns home from work one day, he is confronted with a scene of unimaginable horror. Troy snaps, he has had enough of living such a ghastly life and decides to fight back. However, as he begins to plot his revenge, an unhinged ex-girlfriend reappears claiming to be pregnant…
Chatroom with a View is a thriller that is quite refreshing and unorthodox in its approach and narrative. The opening is compelling as it is awful, cleverly establishing some salient facts and yet keeping the reader guessing. The literal prose both disguises and emphasises the horror of the scene and the writing carries a sliver of black humour throughout which also tempers the carnage.
Troy reminded me of Travis Bickle crossed with Walter Mitty. He is, certainly in the beginning, a sympathetic character. However, some of the decisions he makes are deeply questionable and there are areas of the novel when he makes you feel uncomfortable. Notwithstanding, he carries the novel very well, you know he is mentally unravelling and this is depicted with normality which makes it realistic and all the more concerning. The state of blind, frenzied panic that he exists in is contagious and makes for quite an agitating read in parts. I really enjoyed the exchanges with his only friend, Stitch, and personally thought it was a smart move to make Stitch quite a nebulous figure. Despite the fact he turns up at the right moments, there were times I wondered if he even existed or was he just a separate realm of Troy’s skewed consciousness?
The storyline involving waitresses Natalie and Marnie which really is the main plot for most of novel certainly taps into feelings that, I suspect the majority of readers will have experienced; revenge on those that have taunted or bullied you, basically, schadenfreude at its finest and I think the outcome with the two was a brave but sensible conclusion. The chapters that took place in the online chatroom were well-realised and immersive. Then we have Veronica, the ex-girlfriend. She veers between being a comic figure to a scarily deranged individual and remains convincing. Once she moves in with Troy, her behaviour is chillingly awful and the narrative became a horror story within a horror story.
The pace is extremely fast and resultingly the prose gets a little loose in places, there is a touch of haste and repetition. I do also think that some elements were a little far-fetched and credibility was occasionally stretched in order to keep the narrative on track. The strand involving Troy’s father towards the end was one such believability leap although I thought the ending was very good and unusual.
Overall, Chatroom with a View is a blistering, unsettling and absorbing thriller that is well worth a read. Highly recommended.