Book Title: Shrouded
Author: Carol Anne Davis
Why I Consider This Book Odd: Davis deals with a taboo subject – necrophilia – in an intricately and at times outrageously plotted novel. Readers with triggers should also be aware that this novel deals with terrible child abuse, murder and has elements of rape.
Type of Book: Fiction, novel
Availability: Written in 1997 and published by Bloodlines, this book was reissued in 2006 by Snowbooks and is still in print. You can find a copy of this book easily by clicking the following affiliate link: Shrouded
Comments: While this book is outrageous in many respects, it is not as visceral as some other books that deal with necrophilia, like Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z. Brite, an excellent novel in its own right. While the plot developments at time seem extremely unlikely and the ending is rushed, this book is still worth a read. Davis nails her protagonist’s descent into madness in a manner that only Ruth Rendell could have managed more deftly. And when the plot isn’t beggaring belief, the depictions of human frailty and the extremities of the human psyche make this book quite interesting indeed.
Rest of review under the jump. There are incomplete spoilers so be warned.
The protagonist of Shrouded is Douglas, a man whose stepfather physically and sexually abused him to the point that Douglas’ psyche is so damaged that as an adult, he can only tolerate sexual activity if the woman is completely still. While initially he is able to get a prostitute to pretend to be dead, this sexual congress sets off Douglas’ sexual paraphilia to the extent that he begins to stalk women, kill them, and have sex with their dead bodies. And oh yeah, he’s an undertaker at a funeral parlor and purchases a type of snail that emits a toxin that will put a person in a sort of zombie-like coma so he can potentially keep a deadish woman with him for an extended period of time.
Enter Marjory. She is a fat, asthmatic whose mother has ground her down over the years until her relatively healthy daughter feels like she is quite frail. But still, trying to get out from under her mother’s thumb, she moves in with a roommate, determined to start living her life. But Marjory lacks self-confidence and is extremely shy. She has little knowledge of human nature. Her fate almost seems sealed when she meets Douglas at a group meeting for aquatic pet keepers.
The scenes where Douglas grapples with his mental illness and descends into such delusional thinking that he believes the women he stalks and kills want him to do terrible things to them, that they send him loving signals beforehand, redeem the bizarre plot with the snails and what ultimately happens to Marjory at Douglas’ hands. And of course, bear in mind, this is just my opinion. You may find the ending to be thrilling and nail-bitingly close to the bone, so your mileage, as always, may vary. But even with my mild annoyance at the ending, this is an excellent book that handles necrophilia without descending into caricature or unnecessary gore.