Meeting Evil by Thomas Berger
Read by Bronson Pinchot
Length 7 Hrs 30 Min
Genre: Thriller, Dark Comedy
Quick Thoughts: Meeting Evil is a dark comedy that, for me, fell flat due to the utterly unlikable main character, but still managed to be an enjoyable listening experience mostly due to the strength of the narration
While planning books I wanted to include in my listening list for October’s Murder, Monsters and Mayhem event I wanted to add at least one dark comedy, particularly one where the driving force of the book was not monsters, or supernatural elements but human mayhem. I have always been a big fan of dark comedies, as a teenager, my favorite two movies were Heathers and Better Off Dead. Nowadays, I tend to be the first person in line to see the latest Cohen Brother’s movie, and to pick up the latest Tim Dorsey novel. I love the fact that writers can take a subject that seems quite serious, school killings, teenage suicides, serial killers, child abductions, and murder of all flavors, yet do it in a manner that can make us laugh. For me, it doesn’t really mitigate the seriousness of the issues, but highlights our human perceptions. The reason I decided on Thomas Berger’s Meeting Evil as my Black Comedy selection came down to an external factor. Meeting Evil is being turned into a movie staring Samuel Jackson and Luke Wilson, and I am always a big believer in reading or listening to a book before seeing the movie.
Meeting Evil starts with a simple knock on the door, and spirals out of control from that moment becoming the worst day of John Felton’s life. Opening the door, John meets Richie, a young man who needs a simple favor, he’s having car trouble and just needs a push. Little does John know that this simple act of neighborly kindness will lead to a day full of murder, kidnapping, home invasions, and other sorts of criminal mischief. John Felton is quite a boring character, a middle class family man who drives the speed limit, respects the police, and works hard at a struggling real estate business. Richie on the other hand, is an over the top sociopath, with extreme misogynistic tendencies, and has just decided that John is his new best friend. Now, on the surface this should lead to lots of laugh out loud moments of dark comedy, and there are those moments, but, for me, much of it fell flat. I think my main issue with the novel is instead of playing off the odd couple elements, I felt that despite Richie’s outlandish nature, John in many ways agreed with Richie. John seemed to be a simmering cauldron of disillusionment, who embraced some of Richie’s anti-women ranting, at least internally, yet rejected other aspects of his personality. While, in many ways John is presented as the reluctant hero of the piece, I could never garner enough respect for him to give him that label. John never truly acted against Richie, until it directly affected him, or his family. Now, I believe much of this was intentional by author, but I found myself loathing the character too much to even want to attempt to justify his actions and inactions. At least the story was interesting and moved at a fast paced, but I just didn’t get out of it what I wanted.
Now for the saving grace of the listening experience. Bronson Pinchot was simply hilarious in his reading particularly the sing songy way he read Richie. Whatever laugh out loud moments did come, was mostly because Pinchot’s comic timing was dead on, and his character voices just over the top enough to be funny without becoming cartoonish. I would say that if you choose to take on this book, you absolutely have to listen to the audio version just to hear Pinchot’s performance. I think one of the reasons I really enjoyed it was most of my experience with Pinchot as a narrator, books like Matterhorn, and The President’s Vampire, didn’t highlight his comedic skills, and for some reason, I found myself amazed at just how well he could read comedy. Meeting Evil is a dark comedy that, for me, fell flat due to the utterly unlikable main character, but still managed to be an enjoyable listening experience mostly due to the strength of the narration.
Note: A Special Thanks to the good people at Blackstone Audio for providing me with a review copy of this title.