The narrator and most important character of “A Certain Hunger” is a hot meals critic named Dorothy Daniels. When the novel opens she’s sitting alone at the bar of the NoMad Lodge in Manhattan, sipping an Absinthe cocktail called The Corpse Reviver #2 — “an beautiful drink that sits on the lintel of anarchy.” Dorothy, who’s a preternaturally hot babe of 51, is there to select up a mattress companion. Soon enough, a very likely young person named Casimir sends more than a drink and “slid[es] off his chair, smooth as a pat of butter oozing from a pile of sizzling flapjacks.” Right before lengthy the pair are ensconced in his lodge space, undertaking the horizontal hula. They meet up often soon after that, until the night time that Dorothy plunges an ice decide into Casimir’s throat and — how shall I say this politely? — indulges in her mystery starvation for organ meats.
I warned you that you may be grossed out.
“A Particular Hunger” would be an instant turnoff (this scene with Casimir can take spot in the opening chapter of the novel) were it not for Summers’s romping way with terms. Dorothy speaks like Humbert Humbert and behaves like Hannibal Lecter. It’s that Humbert-like voice — the flair for contemporary imagery, ornate vocabulary and sly humor — that lures visitors into this vile debut novel. For occasion, here’s a single of Dorothy’s a lot more philosophical musings as she’s sipping her cocktail in the resort bar: “Hotels are like practice journey, like early- early morning pillow chat with a stranger. They allow for you to occupy a place that is caught in indefiniteness.” Or take into consideration Dorothy’s boastings about how she prevented having a “bad rep” even though sleeping all over in higher education:
“You’d believe that possessing intercourse with . . . quite a few youthful males — a group whose predilection for gossip makes retired Mahjong players glimpse like Cistercian monks — I’d get a terrible status. But I’d been thorough . . . I did not [sleep with] any person I could not damage. My philosophy has normally been that if you appear tricky sufficient, you will obtain one thing wicked on nearly just about every guy. ”
I’ve had to clean up up Dorothy’s language mainly because she can be alternatively uncooked. Summers’s author bio identifies her as “a columnist for the now defunct Adult magazine” obviously her background as a author of erotica will come in handy here in devising the acrobatic array of cartilage snapping couplings that Dorothy enjoys with an global menu of males, amongst them: the aforementioned Casimir, a Russian Andrew, an American and Giovanni, an Italian. Delicious beefcake all.
In basic noir suspense design and style, Dorothy retrospectively narrates her vocation as a libertine, foods critic, assassin and recreational cannibal from prison, so we viewers know from the outset that she’s not equipped to skip out on the karmic meal invoice, so to converse. But one more detail that would make Dorothy so likable — despite her grotesque cravings — is that she’s not a complainer. She cheerfully assures us: “It’s not as risky as I imagined it would be, jail. . . . Just just after I first get there, two females — what do they say — acquired all up in my experience. It was type of cute, seriously. . . . They cornered me as I was exiting the shower I looked down at them . . . and instructed them that I’d killed a male with a piece of fruit. I let that assertion sit, and I observed their limited speculate about their possess personal and distressing Achilles heels.”
During jail going to several hours, Dorothy entertains a parade of psychology and prison justice pupils who want to job interview her for their doctoral dissertations. (“It was delightful to be so avidly courted by so several keenly intrigued young items. I felt like the belle of the carceral ball.”) Dorothy toys with them, as she does with us, laying the seductive sauciness on thick as she reminisces about her distant mothers and fathers, her lucky crack into restaurant examining, her sexual initiation in the slick arms of a teenage fry-cook dinner, and the amoral curiosity that pushed her around the top culinary line. The suspense of “A Specific Hunger” derives from viewing how Dorothy concocts and then, for a time, will get absent with, at any time more elaborate — and sometimes hilarious — methods of murdering her victims so that their deaths appear normal (irrespective of the odd missing liver or rump).
“A Sure Hunger” is distasteful, but it’s also naughty, witty and inventive. It may well leave a poor style in your mouth, but — contrary to the slew of “Gone Girl” knockoffs that clog the offerings of suspense fiction these days — it won’t bore you.
Maureen Corrigan, who is the book critic for the NPR system “Fresh Air,” teaches literature at Georgetown University.
A Specified Hunger
Unnamed Push. 237 pp. $26