cover image A Pleasure and a Calling

A Pleasure and a Calling

Phil Hogan. Picador, $25 (288p) ISBN 978-1-250-06063-1

British writer Hogan’s fourth novel (after All This Will Be Yours) is a gripping psychological thriller that pegs out the creep-o-meter with its chilling, original plot. Mr. Heming is a real estate agent in an English village, very successful, very curious, and very dangerous. He has sold hundreds of houses in 17 years and has kept the keys to all of them. He uses the keys to enter homes and spy, obsessively and surreptitiously interjecting himself into the homeowners’ lives, occasionally altering things for his own amusement, learning everything about each family: “I squeezed the juice out of them, though they didn’t know it.” Mr. Heming doesn’t think of himself as a stalker or voyeur, and he doesn’t consider himself a thief. He is, however, a man who will act decisively if threatened or even merely annoyed. His orderly life is suddenly complicated when he becomes smitten with Abigail Rice, a young woman to whom he sold a house. Abigail is involved with a philandering predator—a married man named Douglas Sharp, another one of Mr. Heming’s clients. Mr. Heming decides that Sharp must be removed, and, with his customary thoroughness, the realtor decides to discredit Sharp, but his complex plan takes a deadly turn. Hogan’s Mr. Heming is a monumentally diabolical character—the fact that he narrates the story further ups both the stakes and the tension. Readers won’t soon forget this first-rate, white-knuckle suspense novel. (Jan.)