Perfect Days by Raphael Montes (Penguin Press, Feb. 16th, 2016)-Teo Avelar is a medical student in Rio de Janeiro that is the caregiver for his paraplegic mother and seems to relate most to his med school cadaver…that he’s named Gertrude (not that he’d share this with anyone.) When Teo meets the impetuous, outspoken, and petite (this is important) Clarice, she awakens feelings in him that he never expected he’d have, and he MUST have Clarice. Instead of asking her for a date, like most guys would, he stalks her, finding out where she lives, where she plays, and the kind of extracurricular activities that she enjoys. Teo isn’t entirely approving of Clarice’s romantic choices, and decides that he’s the perfect guy for her…if only she’d see it. No worries. He’ll make her see it. After all, she’s writing a screenplay called Perfect Days, and it’s about a group of friends on a road trip. Speaking of perfect-it’s the perfect way for Clarice to get to know Teo, and come to the realization that they are meant for each other, so he cracks her over the head with a book, stuffs her in a suitcase, and they hit the road–after Teo picks up a few tools that he thinks he might need to keep the fiery Clarice docile (this includes sedative and handcuffs…and other squicky stuff.)
Lest you think this is a run of the mill crazy-guy-kidnaps-girl-and-rapes-and-kills-her, you’d be mistaken. Teo, being the sociopath that he is, doesn’t particularly have any murderous impulses per se, but he’s not above casual homicide if it serves his needs. He’s convinced that if he can just make Clarice see that they are a perfect couple, she’ll be happy and want to be with him. He just has a very different way of doing it than most guys. Thank goodness. Teo even makes it special by following the route that her characters follow, and their stay at a retreat hotel is particularly harrowing. Teo’s chilling pragmatism meets Clarice’s strong will to live with shocking results, and the climax is worthy of anything that Highsmith has written, and indeed, this is compared to some of her best work. The advanced reader’s copy has a sticker on it that says “Tell us when you get to page ???.” I’m not gonna tell you what page it is (although you can easily find out,) but it’s a helluva kick in the teeth. If you don’t get the creeps right down to your toes, then you have a strong constitution. It’s a horrifying scene in its coldness, precision, and focused malice, although Teo would tell you that it’s the best thing for both of them. You’ll most likely disagree. Perfect Days is a slim, lean volume that packs a huge punch, and I dare you to put it down once you pick it up. This brutal little thriller will have you thinking about it for days after finishing the last page.