Camouflage Review
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Natasha White bursts onto the Irish pulp scene with a short but effective first novel, Camouflage, where we meet anti-heroine Sophie, a serial killer who is both egregiously disturbed and compelling magnetic in her rage against the man machine of the “new Ireland.”

I recently read Laurence Block’s Getting Off, which also features a female serial killer, who, compelled by daddy issues, makes her bloody way through men who mirror the paternal fiend from her youth.

Writers give these sociopaths a raison d’etre—psychologically scarred childhoods is the most common—and hope that, by giving readers some kind of rational rope to hang onto in the murky waters of depravity, it will satisfy those who need a reason for the character’s disturbed behavior. However, I’ve seen too many serial killers with motive and too many FBI agents clinging to their by-the-numbers profiles that all I want to see is a pure force of nature whose motives are more ambiguous—and, therefore, more complex by virtue of the fact that they cannot be caged by an FBI profile list.

  
 
And so to White’s Sophie.

In Sophie, White has created a post-Celtic Tiger anti-heroine of the ilk that Eire has never seen before. While serial killers are nothing new, White has managed to write one whose psychology and personally-defined morality are hard to pin down.

Sophie doesn’t have it bad in the new, post-Celtic Tiger Ireland. She has a job, after-all, in a PR firm. However, as a strong and educated Irish woman of the new millennia, she does have a problem with her boss, who is overbearing and plainly just a bully. So, in order to exact a type of revenge, Sophie sets about trying to seduce her boss’s rich spoiled wife and pull his life apart. This is the basic premise, with some visceral male deaths thrown in to up the ante between Sophie’s Machiavellian lesbian machinations and fear that her dumped bodies will be discovered in the Dublin hills.

Sophie is the collapse of all that is sane. Much like the county’s faux bewilderment after the death of the Tiger (the disingenuous scream of “how could this happen?”), Sophie’s fierce agenda appears to come out of left field as she creates her own level of havoc and logic. But, for all the randomness, is her character’s existence totally out of the blue and un-portended? Is Sophie an inevitable post-boom creation?

Much like Sophie’s knack for knocking people off, White has a knack for knocking out dark pulp fiction. I particularly enjoyed the more graphic elements of the story, wherein Sophie kills, dissembles, and cooks one of her more obnoxious victims. Does he deserve what he gets? Probably not. But I had fun reading these vivid descriptions. Who says the girls can’t play with the boys when it comes to graphic violence?

White’s novel is more novella in length, and it could have benefited from a longer format. But, at the same time, I’m also glad that it doesn’t outstay its welcome. And while some of the narrative is a little scattered and more episodic than I would have liked, the author molds a brazen example of the female on a guilt-free spree of mayhem.

Ireland has always been a county of contradictions and ambiguity. Therefore, Sophie fits right in. Now that the Ireland of post-Tiger and post-economic collapse has sent people into a freefall—and into a world that makes little sense—White’s anti-heroine mirrors that tone: Sophie’s actions don’t totally make sense to us. She just is. And, boy, you’d better not get in her way.

As a side note: The Kindle edition of the book has some noticeable copy-editing errors (which are easy to fix in electronic form; I should know, being guilty myself), but once I was into the book, they didn’t distract from my overall enjoyment of this great first novel from a new and talented author. As of this writing, Camouflage is in pre-production as a movie, filmed in Ireland. Let the blood flow.

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