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4.3 out of 5 stars
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4.3 out of 5 stars
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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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on 1 May 2015
I loved this book,I was fascinated by the way the author takes you on a journey through the eyes of the character.
The book is quite easy to get into and has a good dust to it,which I never saw we coming.
A must read enjoyable book.
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on 3 May 2014
This is one of those stories which takes its time – not in the sense of dragging its heels, but more like a good meal which insists that you properly savour each course. And as the tale unwinds, it is a meal of many courses with a little more of the plot and back story being revealed each time …
At the beginning of the book we share estate agent William Heming’s sense of righteous indignation at the minor injustices he observes taking place around him. We even enjoy the justice he metes out to those deserving of it – even the somewhat excessive punishment received by one person, which is both ingenious and comic. But gradually William is revealed as being a rather different character than that implied at the onset. His sense of justice turns out to be somewhat skewed: he appears to morally amoral – or should that be afflicted by amoral morals? As matters progress and we discover more about William, we grow less comfortable and begin to perceive that he is less on the side of the angels than he thinks he is: nevertheless when he picks up that golf club it still succeeds in being a shock.
It’s a terrific bit of storytelling and by the end you are in two minds – will he be caught or not? And while a part of you wants him to be caught, another hopes he will escape justice himself, despite his cold blooded attitude to murder and general creepiness. It’s a book which you won’t forget in a hurry – but which will send you scampering to change your locks …
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Rarely do you read a book which is totally original, creepy, delightfully and darkly funny and enjoyable from cover to cover. I am pleased to say that this is such a book. Estate agent William Heming lives in a leafy and prosperous community. He is successful, self employed and adept at reading people. However, Heming has a secret – he has the keys of every house he has sold and he is more familiar with his clients lives, and their properties, than you might expect...

When Heming has an altercation with a man in a park, he engineers a small revenge. However, when he becomes infatuated with the man’s girlfriend, events spiral out of control. This wonderful novel gradually unravels the life of William Heming from a small boy who hid in wardrobes, to a grown man who hides in the attics of his clients. A man you are unlikely to remember, who is adept at staying anonymous, but whose deepest, and darkest, desires are unleashed in the privacy of other people’s homes.

It is hard to review this book without giving away the plot and I have no wish to spoil the story. As we learn more about William Heming, we should dislike him – but that is hard to do. He is as unique as this book, which I suppose you could call a literary crime novel. This deserves to be a huge success and it has found its way into my favourite reads of the year without doubt.

I received a copy of the novel from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.
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on 6 June 2014
I wasn't expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did. The things I'd read about it made it sound...odd...a strange storyline...not something I would usually read. but I did and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I would highly recommend this book!
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on 17 March 2014
It's a really creepy book and beautifully written. I loved the way it pieced together the life of William Heming, the highly organised and dusturbing main character. Change your locks if you've just bought a house!
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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 21 March 2014
This is an imaginative and well written novel about an estate agent who has an extra key cut for every property he sells. Why? Find out as the story unfolds with added layers of background and reasons behind the agent's actions. It's really such a new direction for a story and I thoroughly recommend it.

(And, by the way, make sure you don't leave your key with an estate agent - you never know what they will do with it!)
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on 25 November 2014
Not that I haven't got enough books of my own, but having seen a few reviews of this recent release, I was interested enough to reserve it at my local library. Currently of the 25 scores on Amazon UK, 15 give it top marks and 10 settle for 4 stars, with no dissenting voices as yet.

Our narrator is Mr Heming, a small town estate agent with a propensity for copying and keeping client's keys, allowing him access to come and go from their lives as he sees fit. His passion is in knowing everything about everyone..... where you work, what you eat, where you shop, what you earn, etc. He'll rifle through your drawers, but whilst he'll take a small memento, he won't get his thrills from stealing your wife's panties.

"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. I agree it is an idea that takes some getting used to. But do we not all have a life to make, to mould it somehow around that of others, to search for the dovetail that seems best to fit?"

Creepy, unsettling and disturbing. The more we get to know William; the flashbacks to incidents from his childhood help and the more he rationalises his behaviour, the more you realise you are in the presence of a seriously deranged individual, with enough of a cloak of respectability and invisibility to pass himself off as normal.

Incidents at school and with neighbourhood children, allow his closest relatives to glean a glimpse at the malevolence lurking within the real Heming. Adulthood and a fortuitous route into a career in estate agency, allows him opportunity to perfect his art.

Some deft interventions allow Heming to almost convince us that his role is as a benign guardian of his town - disruptions to unwanted residents of his neighbourhood and an unsubtle campaign of dirty tricks....... credit card orders for holidays and garden furniture, pipes suddenly leaking, travelling tarmac contractors arriving unexpectedly...... before you know it, the unwanted have been vanquished and Heming has restored order and balance to his community.

An incident with an un-scooped dog turd and a row with Douglas Sharp, the dog owner changes the course of Heming's life. Soon after having honed his radar on Sharp, his attentions are drawn to Abigail, Sharp's mistress. Heming's new obsession sets in motion a violent change of events. Whether William Heming survives the fall-out depends on the lengths he's prepared to go.

Always interesting with never a dull moment, I enjoyed Hogan's book. Whilst it was impossible to like Heming, I never disliked him and could understand and empathise with some of actions which were incredibly funny on occasions. I must admit I'm with him as regards poetry is concerned... "Poetry, I admit is the locked room to which my mind cannot quite be relied upon to find the key," Hopefully that's where our similarities end!

4 from 5

Borrowed from Leighton Buzzard library.

Phil Hogan is an author and journalist. He has previously written 3 other novels and has published a collection of his columns about family life. I don't have any of his other books, but wouldn't rule out reading him again in the future.
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