Joanne Harris rocketed to fame with her culinary fairy tale Chocolat, which is to date the title that readers associate her with. What many people seem to be unaware of, sadly, is her work in the seedy thriller genre. While her latest offering, blueeyedboy, claims on the cover to be "From The Author of Chocolat", it has much more in common with her darker novel Gentlemen & Players. For one, both books are set in Malbry, Yorkshire - a not entirely happy place. St Oswald's, the grammar school that acted as chessboard and battlefield in Gentlemen & Players, is obliquely mentioned, although it is by no means necessary to have read that book in order to enjoy this twisted little fable.
B.B. is approaching middle age and still lives with his mother. His inner life is played out in comfortable anonymity on the Internet, where under the nickname blueeyedboy he blogs about his troubled past. His posts are part fiction, part confession, almost always revolving around the same themes: his formidable mother, daydreams of murder, and a growing fixation with a girl in a red duffel coat. A girl that blueeyedboy seems to know...
To say anything else would be to give away a number of the twists and turns in this novel. It is safe to say that Harris is on form here, taking pleasure in yanking the rug out from under the reader time and time again, and populating her sad story with a host of entirely believable characters, from the mannered Dr Peacock to the ridiculous hippy Feather, and angry, troubled shells like Nigel and Bethan.
The unreliable narrator here brought to my mind American Psycho, and while Harris's style couldn't be more different from Bret Easton Ellis's, blueeyedboy does make a suitably British companion piece to that novel.