The man at the pitiless heart of this novel is without any redeeming qualities; so featureless he doesn’t even warrant a name and yet from the very beginning there’s something about him, a faint, almost indiscernible spark which ignites the curiosity. You need to know more. Gradually, ponderous as the rusty cogs of time rumbling ever onward, you come to realise there’s more to this outwardly tiresome, crushingly pedantic man who trudges myopically through a mundane existence in a town of suffocating ordinariness.
It’s only when he’s found dead that the secrets of his life are revealed; the spiralling deviance of his mother’s games, his scrupulous detachment from a world not of his making, the fatal significance of his rendezvous with a beautiful and voluptuous young woman.
Only when you reach the end will you see whether you are right to believe what you think you know.
Swell is compelling and provocative, telling of innocence betrayed, of obsession and desire, of a mother’s unrelenting control of her only son even from beyond the grave. It’s a tale for the 21st Century yet the prose transports the sense of a grainy black and white movie, a Romance Noir, with its stark imagery and poignant comic drama drenched with connotation.
In the end, all that remains to be answered is, why.