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Phil Hogan delivers clever psychological thriller

A Pleasure and a Calling
By Phil Hogan 

William Heming is the proverbial quiet man, nondescript, keeping to himself, mastering “the skill of being likable, but not memorable.” Yet Heming seethes with self-righteous contempt for others and a propensity for vengeance and violence that erupts when he feels threatened, or just irritated.

His employees and clients believe the seemingly unobtrusive Heming leads a boring life, but nothing could be further from the truth in Phil Hogan’s fascinating dark character study. Starting as a quiet tale about an odd man, “A Pleasure and a Calling” wastes little time expanding to a clever psychological thriller about a man full of menace.

Heming has owned a successful real estate agency in a “leafy, bustling” British town for 17 years, selling hundreds of houses. And he knows those houses intimately as he has kept the keys to each and, as a self-appointed guardian of the village, has little compunction about visiting those homes when the owners are gone.

“I don’t peep through windows. ... I am not a stalker, or a voyeur. I am simply sharing an experience, a life as it happens.” He is oblivious to how creepy he is, helping himself to breakfast at one house, going through checkbooks and diaries at another house, rearranging items at another house.

As for those who are rude to him, or don’t pick up after their dogs, or clip an automobile without leaving a note, Heming is prepared to dismantle their lives from never-ending, unexplained deliveries to being arrested for thefts they didn’t commit.

Heming’s fixation on Douglas Sharp following a minor insult swells to an obsession on Abigail Rice, the young woman with whom the married Douglas is having an affair. “Simmering with desire and hatred,” it’s time, Heming believes, to permanently remove Douglas so that he and Abigail can be together.

Hogan avoids clichs as he delivers one surprise after another. Heming at first seems harmless, but Hogan shows bit by bit how Heming has been scheming and diabolical, making this complex character both a villain and a hero.

“A Pleasure and a Calling” brims with wry wit and taut tension, and will make readers think about changing the locks on their doors, just to be cautious. (AP)