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4.3 out of 5 stars66
4.3 out of 5 stars
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If I were to try and categorize this novel, I would say that it is psychological horror. Having now finished the book, and having now just bought my new house, I think one of the things I will be doing first is changing all the locks!

A PLEASURE AND A CALLING is narrated by William Heming, an estate agent. At the end of the first chapter, we discover that he still owns copies of all the keys to all the houses he has sold. By taking us through the present day and taking us back to his childhood, William tries to explain why he is the way he is and what he gets out of it. The more you read of this novel, the more it is chilling and quite disturbing. William is not a likeable character, but he comes across as being honest, to the reader at least. The language used by Hogan when referring to William and his habit - words such as 'lair' - make him come across as some kind of beast or monster. Yet, I am pretty sure you will want to keep reading what he has to say.

Towards the end, William states that he is "happy on the fringes, listening and watching, excitedly awaiting your next move. I dissolve into the surroundings and breathe your air." Perhaps, to a certain degree, we are all guilty of doing this at times. And the very act of reading a novel allows us to do this - we are sucked in by the narrator of the tale, looking on from the fringes at everything around them, passing our judgement on what we perceive.

I would highly recommend this book - it's not a comfortable read, especially if your a new home owner, but you won't want to miss out on the tale that Mr Heming has got to tell you.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 27 March 2015
I used to work as an Estate agent and one of the reasons I used to love my job was the slightly voyeuristic aspect of looking around people's houses and being trusted with things that you wouldn't normally have-like the keys to someone's home! So I was very interested in this concept of an Estate agent who doesn't seem to be able to move on after his sales and has kept the keys to clients homes for his own personal use.
Mr Heming is introduced to us when a chance meeting in a park with a dog owner leads to murder. He has been working as an Estate agent for 17 years since his expulsion from school and has a very close relationship with his past buyers and sellers, in fact he knows everything about them. He has keys for all their properties and likes to "visit" usually while they aren't there.
I know I was supposed to find him creepy and weird but I loved Will Hemming! I understood why he acted the way he did after his difficult childhood (is it nature or nurture that makes us behave the way we do?) He is an anti hero that helps the wronged and is generous to those in need but anyone crossing the line needs to watch out! I was rooting for him to get away with everything and felt my normal sense of justice had been turned upside down!
I thoroughly enjoyed this twisted tale and will always remember to change the locks during any future house moves!
I received a copy of this book via netgalley in return for an honest review.
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on 29 April 2015
Narrated by Mr Heming himself, A Pleasure and A Calling is the story of estate agent William Heming and his rather unusual obsession with other people's lives and property. Although what he is doing is shocking, he tells it in a way which makes it seem harmless, if rather creepy. I found Heming utterly fascinating. He appears so normal that you'd barely notice him if you passed him in the street

I was completely enthralled by this book. At first, I was shocked at the audacity of Heming's behaviour, but, as the book moved from his childhood into adulthood and his role as an estate agent, I somehow accepted his behaviour and became more interested in his need to know everything about each homeowner. I can't begin to imagine how it would have made me feel to be one of his victims - to find things moved about, food missing and to think I'd lost something altogether - never imagining that it had been taken as a souvenir!

Hogan has created an intelligent page-turner that builds suspense from the outset, drawing you in from the very first page. It is gripping and dark, a psychological thriller that throws up surprises and twists just when you think you know what's going on. Fantastic!
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on 2 June 2014
This story is based on a very simple concept: what if your estate agent kept a copy of the keys to every house that he had sold through his agency? What if he used those keys to gain access and go through your personal effects? What if he was in the house while you were? Or just leaving via the back door as you came in the front?

Mr. Heming's "fetish" - if I can call it that for want of a better word - basically involves invasion of privacy. He likes to discover the minutiae of other pepole's lives, and perhaps leave his small mark somewhere in their house.

That's not to say he's a bad person - he tries to do good, and in some cases he succeeds. In one notable other case though, events begin to run away with him and it's looking like he might get caught, and other people might get hurt.

The book is compelling from start to finish. The reader is made to alternately sympathise and feel revulsion for our Mr. Heming - not an easy feat! I'd highly recommend it.

In fact, since I can't think of anything bad to say about it, I'm upping my review from 4 to 5 stars. I'd give 4.5 if possible, but in lieu of that I feel I can stand by a 5 star rating here.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 February 2014
Review

I normally review a book the same night i finish reading it, so this book is new for me in 2 ways, 1) its way way outside my comfort zone 2) i waited a week before reviewing it.

I was talked into reading this book by some very nice, well read and clever ladies…. that alone would normally scare me off, but they were batting 2 for 2 on recommends so i had to give in. They had told me the book was “chilling” and “disturbing”. So Initially i was a bit worried that i didn’t find it affected me that way. I found it intriguing and thought provoking. I found it to be something that was so normal, and then so wrong, and yet so easily real that it may well be happening right now. It was then that the disturbing hit. We have a man, a normal everyday man, who has access to every house he has ever sold. Would you in his place with unfettered access to a strangers house, would you look, could you resist, and even more so, if you had access to the house of people you know, could you resist a peek?

The answer is Yes, but isn’t there just that little voice that yearns in us all to know, that little bit of uncertainty, the inner paranoid self that wants to know more…or maybe that’s me? Could you ever look is the question the book asks me. The answer thankfully is no. But the fact that it makes you ask this question and others is a testament to its clever powerful writing.

The weeks gap before writing this review has actually led me from this book being a clever read to its true impact, because in a week its not left me, i have had parts of the book jump back into my head at odd times, take over my dreams, generally disturb my thoughts, colour some of my views and question, Would I?

all of this has led me to the realisation that this book is truly a terrifyingly, creepy, disturbingly real tour de force, showing how trusting we can be with modern services and suppliers, people who we let in our lives and houses, and that’s before we even worry about digital entry. Read it and be afraid…bloody afraid.

Very highly recommended

(Parm)
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William Heming has always been fascinated by the lives of the people around him. Some might call him a stalker, but he wouldn't call himself that. He just likes to find out all about people...without them knowing. So when he is given a job as an estate agent, what joy! The ability to poke and pry round other people's houses; and better yet, to be able to copy the keys of the houses so that he can pop back when the owners are out - or even when they're in...

Mr Heming (as he prefers to be called) is the most original creation I've come across in a long time. He is telling us his story in the first person and despite his increasingly outrageous behaviour the reader can't help developing a sneaking fondness for him, while being very, very glad that he's fictional! Although he got into trouble frequently as a child, he has now made an outwardly respectable life for himself as the owner of the small-town estate agency. He does have the strange little habit of sneaking into people's houses, making a nest for himself in their attics and listening to the goings-on below, but otherwise he's quite a decent chap really - always willing to secretly help a neighbour, even if by doing so he'll frighten them half to death.

And if he'd only stuck to this life, everything would have been fine. But one day, he accidentally gets actively involved in the life of the Sharp family and at the same time falls in love, and suddenly he's involved in a murder investigation that risks revealing his peculiar little habits to the world. This is the story of how Mr Heming sets about keeping his secrets safe...

This is a hugely entertaining read, both creepy and humorous. Twisty and turny all the way through, it kept me guessing right up to the end. As Mr Heming gets more and more involved in the police investigation we see him becoming ever more creative in trying to direct their attention elsewhere. There are distinct elements of farce here, with people whisking out of back doors as others come through the front etc., but it's all handled with huge skill and a lot of humour so that the reader ends up completely ambivalent about the awful Mr Heming - laughing along with his wicked sense of humour even while condemning his ever-more extreme behaviour. Guilt by association!

Very well-written, the characterisation is strong throughout, but Mr Heming himself is the key to this book - a wonderful creation. While the current story unfolds, we are taken back through his life to see what brought him to this point, but though he had a difficult childhood we get the distinct impression he was born this way, not made. And the worst thing is that it's all so chillingly possible...

Highly recommended...but I must dash! Got to get my locks changed!

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Random House Transworld.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 18 April 2014
William Heming is an estate agent in a small town who has cultivated 'a middling, willing sociability' in order to pursue his hobby unnoticed, namely the secret observation of other people. Using his vast collection of keys, Heming can creep into his fellow townspeople's houses and soak up the minutiae of their lives:

"I am not a stalker, or a voyeur. I am simply sharing an experience, a life as it happens. Think of me as an invisible brother or uncle or boyfriend. I'm no trouble. I may be there when you are, or when you are gone, or more likely just before you arrive.“

Heming narrates his tale as if he is an eminently rational and reasonable man, this combined with the lengths he will go to pursue his hobby makes for a very creepy read. The result is a readable and satisfying novel which I enjoyed very much.

[I was given a free download of this book by the publishers for review.]
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on 7 March 2015
I found that this was a pure pleasure reading, A Pleasure and a Calling by Phil Hogan. So much happens in this novel I honestly recommend this novel to all readers.
William Heming tells the story, of being an estate agent. For William Heming getting the key to a client's property is relatively easy. Some client's preferred to be absent when buyers were looking around. They would rather hand the over the keys and let Mr Heming show prospective buyers around. What owners of houses did not know is the William Heming got all the keys cut to every house he sold and keep them all. But why would he keep all the keys to every house he has sold? Mr Heming had weird behaviour, he was twisted and spied on all the houses watching people come and go from their house.
I enjoyed this creepy novel, now is the time for me to check out other books by Phil Hogan. Review by ireadnovels.wordpress.com
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on 16 April 2015
A creepy and believable tale of an estate agent with sociopathic tendencies, this was an enjoyable read. The protagonist is a man who leads a double life, on the surface a successful estate agent with a thriving company, but who spends much of his time snooping around houses he's sold, using the collection of keys he has kept. He appears to be a true sociopath, disdaining normal relationships, and obsessing about those he snoops on. The story uses flashbacks to show how these tendencies developed in his childhood, and while already fairly disturbing, Heming's habits lead to darker deeds. I must confess that I too have never changed locks on moving into a new house, but I have decided to do so on my next move ...

Review of a digital copy from the publisher.
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on 26 April 2014
A deliciously creepy novel, very clever, very different. As the blurb says, ‘William Heming's every pleasure is in his leafy community. He loves and knows every inch of it, feels nurtured by it, and would defend it - perhaps not with his life but if it came to it, with yours.’
William is a very complex character, who excels in being charming, yet invisible in order to worm his way into the lives of his estate agency’s clients. Worming being the operative word, as he literally worms his way into their attics and cupboards to revel in their lives as he watches them unobserved. But how far will he go to protect his way of life?
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