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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 22 August 2010
"The Picture Of Contented New Wealth" is essentially a metaphysical philosophical discourse using the allegory of demonic spirit possession of the wife and child of the wealthy and materialistic Conti and the Tyger Tyger house where they live.

It's told in an allegorical folk-tale style, populated by characters with names such as Conti (the Yuppie) Bliss (the Shrink), Stack (who does the filing), the eccentric Hatters, Mr Squeers (likes young boys), Mr Crook (Vicar) Raffle (smokes Silk Cut), and so on - a Colonel Mustard wouldn't have gone amiss in this line-up. All of the characters with the exception of the possessed woman and son, the mysterious exorcist (The Rector) and perhaps the housekeeper, are portrayed pretty much as the empty vessels they are.

The author creates a highly enjoyable portrayal of the behaviour of the possessed mother and child both during their possession and the subsequent exorcism, while the other characters react to the bizarre goings on by reflecting back on their own lives, loves, desires and wealth.

The message of the mind as something free from the body and the material cosmos of which it is a part, and the fact that Conti realises that it's the non-corporeal mind of his wife he's trying to rescue and can't just buy everything better, and of course the subtler references and further discussion that could be had, is for me personally almost incidental to a witty and reference-loaded story of a possession and exorcism.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Got this book after I heard the author on the Radio 4 Saturday morning magazine programme, it sounded intriguing and on the whole was a very good read. I did find it difficult to get into - I think the author has been let by down the editing and proof reading of his material. There are a fair number of glitches, for example repeated or wrong words and sloppy comma use, especially in speech, which rather spoiled the effect at first, distracting me from the story. At one stage I was near giving up, which would have been a shame - 50 or so pages in, it began to grip me - the twist for me is that none of the characters are sympathetic at all! They really are a bunch of selfish, unpleasant types yet it's compelling to see them struggle to cope with the presence of evil - the evil that possesses Brigit - and try to come to terms with and understand something that is simply outside their frame of reference.

There are some jarring notes. We are told, rather than being shown, a great deal about the characters, so sections of the book read rather like short lectures. However, the atmosphere of horror is well done, and the ending satisfying without being too neat (a few puzzles are left). Overall, a quirky horror story, with many of the traditional spooky props but with a modern tone.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 5 October 2009
I read this swiftly, in two sittings. Highly enjoyable stuff, tongue slipping into cheek somewhat in certain parts. The lyrics of Mark E. Smith (The Fall), notably from 'Spectre Vs. Rector', intrude occasionally. Indeed, the novel takes its point of departure from this song. Yuppies, migrating from the city into the isolated Tyger Tyger House - one of the great haunted houses of supernatural fiction, surely - encounter a fascinating and seductive demonic power. The spectre takes possession of the woman of the house, Brigit, apparently having opened her up to its influence years prior through the medium of Deleuzian theory (brilliant!!!) and the only hope lies with The Rector ('came from the hills-ah!'). Highly recommended. Sludge Hai Choi!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 1 April 2010
The first thing to salute is the Zero Books manifesto printed at the end of this brilliant story. It's a crystallisation of everything you might have felt, being as we are, victims of the bossy, conservative morons who now call the shots in publishing. Goddard's trashing of the new marketeers and their lacklustre risk-free approach to their business is a joy; the overpaid stewards of cultural neglect are given a proper spanking. And not before time. Not that they'll read it.

This is a 5-star book, and like the rest of this author's stories, you feel involved from first page: the time, the place, the characters and their particular world and its smells and texture are introduced with wicked ease. It's 1986. It's set in one of that decade's most pampered backwaters, and you know you're goimg to hate everybody. But you also know you're gonna love the book. Especially when you read with disbelief, the introduction to the unfortunate Brigit, whose possession is manifested to her brother as a soundscape of a noisy farmyard.

You don't hate everybody, of course, and you will soon meet The Rector, a fine, complicated and raddled exorcist who, you feel, could become a Gothic hero in his own right, were more nightmares available for him to inhabit. It's strewn with descriptive sentences, that although you want to read again just for the sheer thrill, they don't interrupt the narrative flow. I noticed a kind of Iris Murdoch paucity of commas sometimes, but to me this was only an occasional trick to disarm a thought that would hold us up. As an excellent reviewer noticed, there along with hardcore historical and personal philosophy, is homage to Mark E Smith.

We're in safe hands again with this book, written by someone who's a gifted and exemplary storyteller.
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on 11 May 2012
A thoroughly interesting and enjoyable tale of demonic possession and the empty souls which fill our capitalist society.

Much of the book paints a lovely, bleak picture. The house, the demons in the walls, the possession itself, a fantastic scene in a department store. The atmosphere was pervasive through the book as the main characters saw everything and everyone around them tainted by/after their experiences.

Only criticism: A lot of the time I found the dialogue quite bland. There were occasional well written interchanges, but I felt that there was just a bit too many "My God man! You can't be serious! This is crazy!" conversations going on, some of which were only there so a character could reply or interject a great philosophical epiphany. So they ended up a bit heavy-handed.

I also thought it ended a bit too quickly, and while another reviewer commented that they liked the openness of the ending, I would have loved some more closure - good or bad.

In summary: Good book! Creepy read. Very glad I supported an independent publisher and author.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 29 October 2009
Demolished this book in one sitting. I couldn't put it down. I felt as though the author had transported me lyrically to a world close to me but at the same time far removed. Stimulating. Be ready to re-read phrases that stand out that you can tell would give the writer enormous pleasure in actually writing "his eyes twinkling with ruthless sensuality". My favourite book of the year.
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on 30 June 2010
this was a recommended read - hooked in from the start. Slightly bizarre, had echoes of the Exorcist but enjoyed it - if you can say that about a gothic horror?
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 21 September 2009
I was going to use one word to describe this book but the rules of Amazon say I must use multiples. So here goes... Ace Ace Ace!!!

Genius wasn't something I was expecting to find in a horror book... bravo to the mischevious devil who put it there!
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on 3 September 2015
It was okay. I don't regret reading it but it wasn't as good as I'd hoped.
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