I bought this because it was a dollar in Dreamspinner Press’s Bittersweet Dreams sale and the premise sounded interesting, if one treading a fine line. For those unaware, this novella is based around a true story that happened in Germany of a man who consented to be murdered and eaten. I’d read the articles about this when it happened, as equally repulsed and intrigued by the case and the ethical/consent issues it raised as everybody else.
So this novella is a fictionalized version of this true story, with different names, which assumes the victim had a boyfriend who he left in order to realize his fetish of being cannibalized. The story takes place after the murder, as the boyfriend tries to put his life back together after finding out what happened. This may make some readers a bit uneasy. I know it did for me. I have no problems with historical fiction as the victims of past atrocities and their families have usually passed away by the time the fiction is written, but this was a case from the past ten years, and I couldn’t help but wonder what the family of the victim might think about someone making money off of a very real event that probably ruined their lives.
Still, I accepted that as I walked into this. The premise was just that fascinating to me, as the M/M genre could really use some
fresh meat new ideas, and I’m hungry longing for some books that don’t simply rely on the good old tropes to make a story. Sadly, the writing didn’t live up to it. The novella started with such a flavorless dry recounting of events that I almost put it down after the first few pages. We’re told about the relationship that the MC, Lukas, has with his partner, Bernhard, until Bernhard simply disappears one day. Lukas struggles to put his life back together and starts dating again, until he finds out what became of Bernhard. There’s a lot of telling and not a lot of showing. We’re told that Bernhard likes music, but beyond that I never really got much sense of his character at all and generally failed to care about him. The first half of the book really dragged along, peppered garnished padded with some very unrealistic scenarios that pulled me further out of the story. I did not buy that either the cops or the college would act as heartlessly callously as they did to the next of kin of a murder victim, even in such an unusual case.
Then we got to the moment we all knew was coming: the video scene. It was both more graphic than I expected and less gratuitous than it could have been. For the first time in this book, I genuinely felt something, even if that emotion was disgust and revulsion. At that point I did at least start to feel some pity for Lukas. I was glad he was able to move on, though I never really felt his new love interest was all that
fleshed-out interesting. Still, the second half of the novella is why it earns two stars and not just one. If you can get to the meat climax of the story without stopping from sheer boredom, and if you can sit through the video scene without throwing up, the rest of the book is actually quite enjoyable. Still, I can’t really recommend this one, as it took far too long to build and glossed over too many important events. It is, however, a quick read and can be consumed read in an hour or so, so if the premise really strikes you, you may still want to try this one.
Reviewer’s Note: Christ, is it hard to write a review on a book about cannibalism without the use of inappropriate puns!