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Eye of Beholder, Marc Behm (book review)

Eye of Beholder was my first book by Marc Behm. It will probably be my last one, as I didn't cared for it at all. This novel was turned into a rather well known film featuring two actors that I like. They were probably the reason why I wanted to see the movie in the first place. You can see them on the cover of the edition featured on this photograph. Years ago, I did see that movie version. I have never thought I'm going to say this, but the film was better than the book. I wasn't even that crazy about the movie version, but in comparison to the book, now doesn't seem that bad. I remember how (years ago), I saw the trailer to that film and really looked forward to seeing it. I also remember how disappointed I was when I had finally seen the film. I considered it a waste of my time in the sense that it didn't reveal anything new. I felt like I could have get everything I need just from seeing the trailer. Honestly, the trailer was so much better than the actual book. I can conclude the same about this book. The idea is interesting, but the development of the story isn't handled bad.



I read EYE OF THE BEHOLDER two days (more precisely two nights ago). I (almost) wish I didn't. I surely wouldn't have missed anything.  However, perhaps it can be said that it wasn't in vain. Sometimes when you read a bad novel, it makes you appreciate good novels more. Does that make sense to you? Besides, I couldn't sleep anyway, so I didn't see anything wrong in reading the night away.

Long story short, I didn't like this novel. I felt the writing was rather sloppy. The idea behind it isn't bad, but it is not well developed. The main characters in this one (only two) are so cliche it hurt. The lonely private eye and the cruel but fabulously beautiful black widow. The plot - wait, what plot? Is there even a plot? It is a story about a lady that kills to get money out of people and a guy that watches her do it and does nothing. I mean what else happens? If you decide to read it, it might seem different to you but in my opinion not much happens in this one.

We do learn some details from their (the killer's and the Eye's) past and that's it. So, they both (at some point in their lives) suffered loss of someone they cared about...I mean who didn't? That doesn't explain anything. Talk about no motive! In addition, there is no character development that I could see, no insight into their souls...not to mention that of their victims. Well, it is clear why their victims are there. I'm using 'their' on purpose since the guy (called only the Eye in this novel) clearly participates in the killing by virtue of not doing anything to stop them. For the record, I'm not protesting against the theme of the novel. I don't mind reading about a serial killer. I don't mind the genre. I actually like the crime/thriller genre. I'm voicing my dislike for the way the story was written. Two words: bad writing. The writing attempts to be poetical but fails miserably, at times it feels like a bad copy of On The Road.

If there was a plot in this one, I missed it out completely. Variation in murder is the only thing that could be said to be interesting- and that didn't interest me at all. I don't read crime/thrillers to read about the murders, I read them expecting to read about motives for murders. I read them because I want to know what makes people do things, basically I want (and expect) these kind of novels to contain a bit of psychology. I want to feel I learn something about human behaviour. If you take your average Agatha Christie novel and compare it with this one, you will see just how much more intelligent and meaningful it will feel in comparison. In comparison with this crazy Eye protagonist and his badly written stream of consciousness, any book will seem better. I won't comment the ending much to avoid spoilers, but I will say it's a shame that it didn't come earlier. The whole story seemed to drag terribly. Murder one, murder two, murder three, etc...I kept hoping that the black widow will get herself killed and that the private eye will stop being such a poor excuse for a human being.

The femme fatale is the basis of this novel really...and in my view her portrayal was horrible. We never learn exactly what makes her tick. We're clueless as to what makes her so attractive to men. I mean will your average Joe really marry a woman he just met and hand all his money to her just like that because.....Marc didn't feel the need to explain it. I won't even comment the no sex before marriage part- in what century are we here? The writer says that our femme fatale is exceptionally beautiful so that might explain a part of her attraction...At some point in the book, it is even revealed that she reads a lot. Yeah, men will stand in line to marry a girl they just met because she has read a lot of book and doesn't look bad. Seriously, on what planet? At the same time, it is stressed she is socially awkward, clumsy and can't keep a job. That is supposedly the excuse for her killing...or is it? She could have robbed all of those men without killing them. If money is what she is after, why not? It is never suggested that she enjoys killing. I mean I couldn't make any sense of this lady. There wasn't even an attempt of psychological profiling in her case. Just this idea that we should care about her because she is a serial killer. Alright, being a serial killer does make you different but I don't see how it makes one interesting. I know that some people see it differently, but I don't. I know there is a whole industry that feeds on human fascination with serial killers, but if you ask me that's just messed up. This whole assumption that a person is somehow exceptional if they kill people....yeah, that's pretty messed up.

There was only one interesting point in the whole novel (page 73 in the edition of this novel) and that is when the Eye interviews the killer's psychiatrist. But even that didn't make such sense. It raised my hopes up, but by the time the interview was over, it all sounded fake. Throughout the novel, there is occasional effort to make the serial killer (aka femme fatale) a bit more sympathetic but it wasn't very well written. There is this notion she is clinically insane (that is supposed to make us feel for her I guess) supported by the claim that she has 'visions', but then as she actually spears the life of some of her victims, it becomes possible she is not crazy at all, just cruel (and greedy). As I said, her portrayal is a mess. Hence, the book is a mess.

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