The central character of Prince Rupert's Teardrop is Mary - a 58 year old woman who has recently lost her job and is teased by her neighbours for her eccentric behaviour and unconventional appearance. When her mother - the ninety four year old Meghranoush disappears one day, Mary is unsure whether she has run away after an argument, got lost or been taken.
A serial killer roams the streets of Plymouth, with a prediction for the frail, the vulnerable and the very old. Mary becomes convinced that this psychopath has taken her mother, but she can't tell the authorities because of her own mental history. Who would believe her? Mary undertakes to find this man alone.
What is special about this book is the strong central characterisation. Who cannot relate to Mary as she hides in her neighbours' bushes and dives - semi-naked - into the putrid waters of the boating lake, convinced that she is uncovering clues as to her mother's whereabouts? Despite her mental state, she is resourceful, determined, thoughtful - and takes us to places a more conventional main character could not.
Be warned, however, this book is not for the faint-hearted. A chapter about Meghranoush's past in the Armenian genocide is powerful, raw, horrific. Initially I worried that this obsession with horror was almost exploitative. But this book has a habit of defining things, of expressing things that you know have a distinct, if ugly, truth to them and I began to gain respect for what it is trying to do. It is not afraid to look into the heart of the horror, pull out the entrails and say "look, look at this" until you are forced to acknowledge some of the truth about human beings, our dark capabilities and the nature of fear itself.
It is beautifully written, with a love of and use of language that sets it apart. The language is not just pretty - it is lush, descriptive, coiling around the story with a life of its own - but also providing clues that we can pick up on.
This book is many things: a confrontation with human beings and the violence they are capable of, a dark exploration of the phantoms in our minds, and - what I found most powerful - an exploration of the nature of fear and imagination itself.
As Mary pushes further into the nightmare, we become uncertain as to what is real and what is imagined: the monsters of reality versus the monsters of our minds. In the end, fear itself becomes a monster. Is the psychopath real or Mary's hallucination? Does he exist or is he the product of our collective nightmares?
Lisa Glass handles this delicate balance beautifully - suggesting and giving clues whilst always inviting more questions.
By the time you reach the powerful denouement, you realise this is no ordinary thriller, no ordinary character study, but a work that touches - perhaps uncomfortably - on many troubled truths and questions: beautifully articulated, harrowing, disturbing.
A strong, powerful, beautiful, ugly book: this is a work that dares to look things uncompromisingly in the face, yet can be interpreted in a variety of ways. It will shake you up. Go read it.