Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Written by Thomas Tessier
Published by Leisure Books
Young U.S. doctor Thomas Sutherland isn’t content. He’s got a good job at a hospital and steady work to look forward to for the rest of his life, but he feels like he’s missing something When one of his relatives passes away and he comes into a good sum of money, he decides to take some time off and visit a foreign locale.
Chance leads him to London, where after a few weeks of solitude he meets the famous cosmetic surgeon Roger Nordhagen in a darkened pub. Not knowing who he is at first, the two form a bond over shared drinks, and soon Tom’s desire to see the “real” London is a request easily fulfilled by Nordhagen.
One day they agree to meet for drinks but instead of Roger, Tom comes face to face with gorgeous and exotic assistant, Lina Ravachol. The two discover an undeniable attraction to one another, but Lina’s intentions aren’t simply companionship. She has to see if Thomas is willing to face and deal with the truth of what she does and, more importantly, Nordhagen’s terrible secrets.
Thomas goes beyond his own limits and finds a part of himself he never knew existed and though that may sound trite, it’s exactly how it happens and is handled completely believably because of Tessier’s skills as an author. He manages to create both horror and eroticism with the same expert touch, giving the novel a dimension of reality mixed with the surreal that’s a rarity among even the best authors.
The story is from the perspective of Sutherland. This helps to not only give the reader a fixed perspective on the events that go on, from the best to the worst (and trust me, there are a lot of nasty parts), but assists in understanding the personality shift that Sutherland goes through from the first page to the books’ closing moments. It’s quite a dramatic change for a man of medical science to descend to a form of madness the way Sutherland does, and Tessier is willing to let the reader decide whether or not they would do the same in his situation.
Finishing Touches is riveting and expert writing, a very adult novel at it’s core that should only be partaken by those of you that don’t crave action and bloodshed every 12 pages, but prefer their horror in small, clinical doses. It’s worth the wait.
Also included in Finishing Touches is a novella by Tessier called “Father Panic’s Opera Macabre” that serves as another example of how skilled Tessier in both eroticism and horror. I’ll be honest, it moves a bit slow at first, but when the horror kicks in it does so in overdrive, and I count it among one of the few stories I’ve ever read that included descriptions of human degradation that almost made me physically ill. That’s quite an accomplishment!
My only complaint with “Father Panic’s…” was the ending, which was abrupt and did very little to explain what the hell had just happened. Sometimes I don’t mind ambiguity about my endings, but this one really screamed for something of an explanation.
Tessier’s other works include Nightwalker, Phantom, and Fogheart. Seek them all out when you’re done with Finishing Touches, I doubt you’ll be disappointed!
3 1/2 out of 5
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