Alice and the Fly by James Rice

Review by Ellen

This book is creepy. Really creepy. Not in a ghost jumping out of the closet, “argh, scream” kind of way but in a manner that invades your mind and won’t let go. It’s several weeks since I read Alice and the Fly, this is the first time I’ve had a chance to sit down and write about it, but my feelings reading it (and my memory of the plot, which, let’s face it, often fades rapidly for more insipid stories) are still vivid.

Alice and the Fly is a real psychological thriller told from the perspective of schizophrenic Greg Hall and this is a masterstroke because, even though you know Greg is seriously disturbed, you can’t help but build sympathy for him. Occasional chapters with police interviews between the inspector and Greg’s family and acquaintances make it clear that the teenager has committed some kind of heinous act, as yet unknown. However, as Greg’s story unfolds in his own words it all makes a terrible, logical sense. I knew his judgement was catastrophically impaired by his phobia of spiders, or Them as he called them, but Rice’s writing enabled me to understand, almost against my will, Greg’s thoughts, which led him to beyond-terrible actions.

While Greg parcel tapes himself inside his bedroom to halt invading spiders his parents and sister strive for a high social status. Fuelled by her wilful self-denial of Greg’s condition, his mother is obsessed by her new white Italian leather sofa, which will keep her in with socialite Ursula Hampton. All three are desperate to separate themselves from the unlucky inhabitants of the poverty-stricken Pitt neighbourhood. But their veneer of social respectability and normal family life is all set to come crashing down.

Rice’s debut novel should definitely go on the to-read list for fans of psychological thrillers. Just don’t expect a quiet mind afterwards.