Review of Underneath by Michael Cargill

Underneath was brought to my attention after Michael Cargill and I both did the 7500 word Challenge.

All I can say is wow! I wish I read this book two weeks ago before I did that Villains panel at Westercon. I would have told everyone who wants to see a realistic non-sympathectic socio-path to read Cargill’s novella.

Cargill  deftly creates the setting: a major city in modern Britain is so detail oriented that it made me remember my trip to the United Kingdom when he was describing the parks, the ticket machines, etc. I could visualize everything. Also by not naming the city, he gives the “this could happen anywhere” vibe to the story.

Hugh starts in a park describing the people around him while at first glance he is an “every man who likes squirrels” himself, he quickly gets bored and angry.  He leaves the park and gets on a train becoming more and more irritated by most things and people he sees–except a young woman named Abigail. Once off the train, he breaks open a car window, steals a coat and then gets infuriated because “it is a cheap copy bought from a no-mark,no-lable and sh**** shop, that sold nothing but cheap s*** for slugs who had no idea what good stuff was.” Then he trashes the car.

The two police officers, Clare and Robert, both feel realistic. They have their own issues. Robert eats constantly and Clares has aspirations of promotion, as they cross paths with Hugh’s rising violent acts. They investigate the car whose owner promptly begins blaming Polish illegal immigrants. Robert and Clare’s reactions are perfect. And remain perfect as they move through the story faced with the violence and prejudice of their lives as police officers.

Cargill keeps the tension up masterfully from the first page up until the end. However, the plotting and pacing felt off. It ended rather abruptly just as the action was about to start. It was rushed. I felt as if he had slowed down during the final scenes it would have even been even stronger. 

Finally this book is for ADULTS. The sociopath Hugh has the most lines and Cargill does not pander to the audience. While the sexual activity is implied, as an British author, Cargill assumes the reader understands their standards for appropriate behavior.  Eurotrip was right! The English swear at a whole other level than Americans.

To purchase please go to Amazon:

or Barnes & Noble

2 responses to this post.

  1. Hurrah! Thanks for taking the time to write this, Liz.

    That 7500 challenge blog is great reading.


  2. Another comment, merely to add that I’m rather fond of Penny Arcade as well.


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