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Finishing Touches by Thomas Tessier
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Finishing Touches (1986)

by Thomas Tessier

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Tom Sutherland graduated med school in America, yet decided to take a break from the academic part of life to enjoy a long-term vacation while he still had the chance. In London he pairs up with a rounded, prosperous doctor who soon becomes his drinking buddy. Bemused by the strange man at first, he of course tires of the company, instead turning his infatuation toward the doctors' lovely assistant, Lina. The two begins a hot, morbid love affair, testing the limits of sanity when she asks him to prove his love to her - and his loyalty the doctor - by participating in a condeming act based on survival. When the ultimate secret he's been waiting for is revealed by Dr. Nordhagen, the cellar of horrors is almost too much to bear, until he feels a piece of him dying and sacrifices it all for the alluring Lina.

To tell more of the plot would damper things too much for potential readers. Finishing touches is a disturbing book which holds a sociopathic tone, written in a dark and serious manner that makes it even worse. The pacing is slow and atmosphere is drenched with disturbing imagery. Not much is predictable here, and while it does keep you reading, it doesn't deliver all the goods in the end. Instead I was left with a bewildering tangle that didn't make me feel too good. Usually horror isn't supposed to dress one with hearts and purple bubbles, but the utter depression delivered here wasn't something I'd recommend to many.

Characterization was the largest killer for me here. I found it impossible to emphasize with anyone in the book, least of all the major characters. The only people who aroused even the slightest inkling of sympathy from me were victims. Tom's obsession with his lady love, Lina, went way above the normal heights and I didn't dismiss his actions with her at all. If anything, his bizarre weakness annoyed me. Lina came across only as cruel and perverse, not even sharing the bizarre love Tom showed her. Their actions were purely selfish, and belong in other novels to the enemies, not the central characters. I had more empathy for Hannibal Lecter than these people, and that's pretty bad. They simply didn't make sense, weren't as interesting, and were psychologically shallow.

The only compliment I can lend Tessier with this piece is that he was awfully daring in his voyage. Even Ramsey Campbell himself said he wouldn't have dared written it in such a taboo manner. In the end though, the book is slower than it should be, with a mountitude of build-up and promise, but it never picks up and it never fully satisfies. Primarily it stands as a sex-filled, violent - and, sadly - pointless novel that doesn't create many more emotions than that. ( )
  ErinPaperbackstash | Jun 14, 2016 |
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For Peter Straub
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The first time I met Roger Nordhagen I was nursing a pint of lager in the Carlisle.
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