01/02/2012. Contributed by Pauline Morgan
pub: Solaris/Rebellion Publishing/HarperCollins. 188 page small enlarged paperback. Price: GBP 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-907992-01-8.
check out website: www.solarisbooks.com
The mind is a strange place. We talk about knowing our own minds but that organ is very capable of playing tricks on us. It can deceive and tease but without its machinations psychiatrists, psychologists and authors would have nothing to do. Various things can alter the way we perceive our surroundings. It may be the chemicals within our own systems or those that we put into them. The way other people behave can affect the way our minds work. In ‘Regicide’, Nicholas Royle uses mind tricks on both the reader and his narrator.
The narrative is first person which instantly allows the question of reliability to arise since it is well known that a single event can be interpreted in different ways by different observers. It may depend on mood or perspective. The confusion for Carl begins soon after her meets Annie Risk at a party given by Jaz, the guy he reckons to be his best friend. As he believes he knows London well, having been a bicycle courier, he is surprised to find himself lost in back streets as he escorts Annie back to her hotel after a pub meal. Intrigued, he goes back to it after leaving her. Away from the usual bustle, it seems very quiet and deserted. Wandering around and trying to make sense of the layout, he hears a telephone insistently ringing. Compelled, he breaks into the house to find it is hysterical Annie on the other end and the call is for him. This unnerves him.
Events can happen to a person either because they are proactive or due to happenstance. Although Annie has gone back to her home in Manchester and says she does not want a relationship, Carl gets her telephone number from Jaz. He also finds a map fluttering in the street. Carl likes maps. He wants to know where the area is depicted on it but however much he tries, the location defies him. He has better luck with Annie who he visits in Manchester. On his second visit, his car breaks down on the way back to London. Trying to find help, he wanders into a town which has a familiar layout being that of his mysterious map. From this point on, the plot descends into the surreal. It is a place you can enter but never leave.
In some hands, the plot would become more and more weird but Royle is an author who has complete control of his material. Everything that goes into this slim volume has a purpose. For Carl, everything he experiences has a source which may by internal or external. He has to pick his way through the clues to regain a handle on reality.
While it is difficult to call a book like this enjoyable, there is much to appreciate not least the way the events build to a crescendo and leaves lingering the question as to where truth really lies.
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