I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.A Pleasure and a Calling by Phil Hogan
Genres: Psychological Suspense
Published by Picador Publishing on January 6, 2015
Source: the library
Buy on Amazon
A standalone novel of psychological suspense involving a real estate agent in England.
It uses first-person limited point-of-view from Mr. Heming’s perspective, providing plenty of backstory, which Hogan does beautifully without making it an info dump, to set the context of this found narrative.
From the technical side, I hadn’t thought this was a story with a beginning and an end. I had thought this would merely be a ramble through part of a man’s life, a reminiscence. A tale of everyday characters with their foibles and frills. Everyday that is until you get to Mr. Heming, an innocuous man whom you never notice.
Mr. Heming is an odd mix. He’s quite pleased to help out in the background, from replacing burnt-out light bulbs to donating to community charities, and yet I’m not sure if Mr. Heming is more psychopath…or sociopath. Listening to his reasons for killing, going through the process, the way others set themselves up for his macabre attention…*shudder*…
”…of all the many splendid houses you’ve sold in your seventeen years in the business, you just happened to have the key to that particular one? To which I would answer, of course not, — I have the keys to them all.”
I’m conflicted about Hemings. I can appreciate his seeking out retribution for those to whom others have done wrong, but roaming inside people’s personal lives…even as he hides himself, his own homespace, his businesses? Creepy. That present tense used almost throughout only adds to the creep factor, so matter-of-fact, as Heming spills forth — in his mind — his increasing need for challenge and immersion in the lives of his clients. His matter-of-factness in the deaths he’s caused. And then the grown-up Marrineau compares himself and Heming as being the same: both with their own flocks in small towns.
It’s wrong. So wrong, and yet Hogan paints him so sympathetically, which somehow creates that tension of possible discovery within the depth of that one particular incident.
It seems as if Heming spends all his time spying that I wonder how his business does so well. I got to wondering why, after all these years, no one has ever changed the locks on their houses. That it would be the first thing one does when moving into a new home? But I don’t recall my having changed locks on any of the homes I’ve owned in the past…and if that isn’t creepy!
I was also confused about his memories of his childhood. About what happened to his mother…the baby…Riley.
This was a disturbing book to read, and yet, all writers should read this for two reasons: The voice of Mr. Heming comes across so clearly, and the technical writing is brilliant.
You won’t remember Mr Heming. He showed you round your comfortable home, suggested a sustainable financial package, negotiated a price with the owner, and called you with the good news. The less good news is that, all these years later, he still has the key.
That’s absurd, you laugh. Of all the many hundreds of houses he has sold, why would he still have the key to mine?
The answer to that is, he has the keys to them all.
William Heming’s every pleasure is in his leafy community. He loves and knows every inch of it, feels nurtured by it, and would defend it — perhaps not with his life but if it came to it, with yours…
William Heming is a very private child, a loner who prefers to disappear from view. His father is a cheat while his mother is dying. Riley is their cat. Aunt Lillian and Uncle Richard are both cheats. Isobel is five years older than cousin William.
The real estate office…
…began as Mower and Mower, with Mr. Mower some sort of relative. Rita was his secretary. Stella and the snarky Guy were Mower’s sales consultants. Cliff was the photographer. Mrs. Burton ran a guesthouse. Much later, Katya Stankaviciene is a senior consultant; she’ll become engaged to Evan Jones. Zoe, another consultant, is unbalanced in her way; Emma is her younger sister. Young Josh is setting up the website. Wendy Pegg is Heming’s admin. Tuni will become the new sales consultant.
Real estate clients
Douglas Sharp hasn’t any manners; his wife, Judith Bridgens-that-was, had bought the house on Boselle Avenue some years before. The Cooksons — a dentist and a businesswoman who owns four pharmacies — are selling their house and totally opposite on what they want to buy. Mrs. Peretti (Pippo is her tiny dog), her middle-aged son Paul, and his partner, Jason, are looking for a house. Simon and Jennifer Finch with their son, Thomas, were Heming’s first “butterflies”. The affair of Mrs. Wendell sealed Guy’s fate. Preece Gwyndyr is not a very nice man. Mrs. Wade can’t afford a new wing mirror. Rachel is her daughter.
Margaret has been a librarian for years. Abigail Rice is the new part-time librarian whose mother has just died.
Detective Sergeant Monks and DC Roberts are investigating the murder.
Word & Hulme is a rival estate agents.
In Heming’s youth
Mrs. Hold and the Damatos are neighbors. Anthony is the Damatos’ young son. Angela was the little girl Mrs. Damato was babysitting. Harold Buckshaw was the caretaker at the cemetery.
E.H. Akers was the headmaster. Miss Stiles was the school secretary. Mrs. Luckham was the house-parent at school. Mrs. Blake was the senior housekeeper. Mr. Stamp was a history teacher. Mr. Frith was head of games. Fellow students included the bullying David Marrineau. Sarah was the birthday girl.
Another Sarah becomes the wife, and Toby is his dog.
The Cover and Title
The black, white, and gray cover is menacing with that falling-rain privacy glass obscuring the man on the other side of the door in his trilby hat. The title uses a serif font in white in the lower half of the cover with the author’s name smaller in a golden yellow below that.
The title is just that, A Pleasure and a Calling for Mr. Heming.