Imagine Annie Wilkes, the obsessed fan from Stephen King’s Misery, had a son, and Norman Bates was the father. Imagine that boy in his early 20s, studying medicine, with a cadaver as a best friend. That’ll give you a pretty good idea of Teo, the main character in Raphael Montes Perfect Days.
Teo lives with his wheelchair-bound mum. One evening, she tells him he has to attend a barbecue. While he stands apart from the crowd, a friendly, flirtatious woman and aspiring screenwriter, Clarice, approaches him. They exchange a few words, and Clarice gives Teo a goodbye peck on the cheek. That’s when Teo’s Annie Wilkes side takes over.
He stalks Clarice, eventually sedates her and takes the sleeping beauty to a remote lodge run by dwarves. There, in one of the seven bungalows, he keeps her chained to a bed and gagged, releasing her only to write her screenplay, called Perfect Days. He gives generous notes on her script and waits for her to realise how good he is for her and that she’ll want to be with him always.
Soon, the hotel staff, Clarice’s mother and her boyfriend get suspicious. Teo sedates Clarice again and, sure that their love will be forever young, he drags her off to an isolated cottage on Never-Never Beach, owned by the eccentric Tinkerbell. Despite their seclusion, Teo develops increasingly imaginative ways to convince Clarice that he is her one and only Prince Charming.
This summary might make Perfect Days sound like a playful Misery rip-off, but this is a seriously spooky thriller that is, at times, every bit as creepy as Psycho. Montes also has a sincere literary point to make here as he examines authorial control and autobiographical content in novels.
The fairy-tale/horror mashup conceit works well too, even the happy-ever-after ending. And although some of the many twists are predictable, there are still plenty of surprises.
Any Cop?: Perfect Days is Montes’s second novel and the first the Brazilian writer has had translated into English. At just 26, he will surely have more international success in the future. Get in there early and be a fan right from the start. Just don’t get too obsessed.