PERFECT DAYS by Raphael Montes
CBTB Rating: 5/5
The verdict: must-read.
Raphael Montes’ PERFECT DAYS is perfect crime fiction. Born in 1990, author Montes is already incredibly accomplished: he is a lawyer and a writer, and his debut novel Suicides was published in Brazil in 2010 to great acclaim. Now it’s America’s turn to discover this incredible talent. Montes’ inventive, grotesque novel sets the bar for 2016: it is at once frank, darkly humorous, and deeply disturbing. Guaranteed to hold you captive until the last page.
Meet Teo Avelar: loner, medical student, psychopath. The only time Teo feels truly connected to another individual is when he’s spending time with Gertrude, his medical school cadaver. That all changes when Teo meets Clarice, an aspiring screenwriter working on her first screenplay, “Perfect Days,” in which a group of friends travel across Brazil searching for love. One chance encounter with Clarice, and Teo’s whole world changes: he is obsessed with her, and devises a plan so that their paths will cross again. When Clarice ultimately rejects Teo, he has no choice but to kidnap her, and take her on a twisted journey across Brazil—a darker version of the story Clarice herself was writing.
This book impressed me on so many levels. First and foremost, there’s the narration: I’ve read a lot of books that try to give the reader a glimpse into the mind of a psychopath, and Montes’ portrayal of Teo’s state of mind was above and beyond the most chilling and convincing to me. Teo is one of those villains we love to hate: think Joe from Caroline Kepnes’ YOU, but infinitely more complex and disturbing. Teo is cold, detached, and calculating—he feels nothing, but he recognizes when he should. There are moments in Teo’s narration that are humorous (in a dark, sick kind of way), and I loved the way Montes endears his disturbing main character to the reader. You’ll be equal parts horrified by and addicted to Teo.
PERFECT DAYS doesn’t skimp on the horror, so come prepared: there will be blood, guts, and death. However, it’s absolutely fascinating to see how Montes crafts these scenes through Teo’s eyes. A psychopath with a medical background is a glorious thing to read about—Teo is cold and calculating, viewing murder as an exercise to be performed with the same precision as surgery. Seen through the lens of Teo’s personality, the gore in this book is unsettlingly sanitized and precise. You will be revolted yet unable to look away as Teo uses his medical background to some very unsavory ends.
Last but not least, I have to mention the ending of this book—no spoilers, I promise. PERFECT DAYS ends in the most upsetting, unjust, and totally perfect way. I think it might be my favorite ending of any crime novel I’ve ever read. This story is a dizzying journey brimming with horror, and then it all comes screeching to a halt, ending in a way that had me literally gasping out loud. I can’t sing the praises of this ending enough. Without any bloodshed, the final scenes of this book will send chills down your spine and turn your stomach. When you have read PERFECT DAYS, please comment below with your reactions to the ending – I can’t wait to be able to discuss it with you all!
Raphael Montes’ PERFECT DAYS is quite simply an incredible read. It is dark, inventive, insightful, and bold, exploring the mind of a psychopath and immersing the reader in his perspective as we travel across Brazil on his dark journey. Montes has crafted a story that will horrify even the most seasoned crime fiction reader. This is a brilliant English debut from one of Brazil’s most talented young writers, and I am already looking forward to what comes next from Raphael Montes.
PERFECT DAYS releases on February 16, 2016 from Penguin Press.
Disclaimer: I am an employee of Penguin Random House.