There’s a predator loose in West London. No, it hasn’t got dreadlocks, an invisibility hunting suit and strange talons where its mouth should be. Arnie ain’t gonna take this predator down. She comes wearing Jimmy Choo heels and Givenchy jewellery. By day, she edits the fashion magazine, Couture. By night, she hunts men who abuse women and children.
Camilla Black wasn’t always Camilla Black, but she can’t go by her real name any more. As a child, she was sexually abused by her father and she later took him to court over it. She lost the case but, inspired by one of the court reporters, Camilla decided to become a journalist. In her first job on a regional newspaper, she was sexually harassed by the editor. He ended up dead and she scarpered with his shoebox money, using it to set herself up in London’s high society.
Now she’s rubbing shoulders with oligarchs, buying the most expensive handbags, occasionally directing fashion shoots, and using the internet to track down rapists and paedophiles who have evaded justice. Her latest target is Julian Taylor, whom she meets in a bar on a Tinder date, drugs, and takes to an abandoned building in Hayes. There, with an aesthete’s eye, she trusses him up on the roof of the building and shoots him numerous times with a crossbow. The scene is meant to resemble the death of Saint Sebastian and, after she disappears into the night, it horrifies the whole of London.
The story zips along with a pulpy, no-holds-barred zest, just like Camilla’s sex life. She enjoys the company of men and women, and some of the sex scenes in the book are as lurid as the murders. Camilla, our anti-heroine, narrates throughout. Strangely, for someone who is hell-bent on killing men who abuse women, she seems to enjoy rough sex and asphyxiation. That’s just one of the paradoxes of this character.
Another is that although she plans her murders very carefully, she also takes big risks. She’s got a garage full of murder equipment, and trophies, out in West London somewhere. If the police discover it, she’s done for. After Julian’s murder, which is all over the media, she really starts to worry. Although she wore a wig to hide her identity, she was caught on CCTV and thinks that someone might recognise her mouth and jawline in the blurry image.
Furthermore, the police seem to have a witness who saw Camilla and the victim on the night of the murder. DCI Wheelan comes to her flat in Mayfair and starts asking questions. She looks him up online the same way she researches her victims and discovers that, like her, he has personal reasons for hunting people down. Despite knowing her adversary is very good, Camilla can’t resist the need to kill and has a released paedophile in her sites. Can she get away with another murder or is it just too risky?
Predator is quick-moving novel with graphic sex and violence, alongside a little psychological intrigue. Camilla is an engaging narrator. Her day-to-day life is all about keeping up a facade as a rich-living fashionista and magazine editor. She even has pretend parents and a pretend family home in the countryside, which is actually an AirBnB that she occasionally bolts to.
Whenever relationships with other people threaten, we’re told of the void she feels inside. This rich, empty, serial killer aspect of the book is reminiscent of American Psycho. There are certainly would-she-really? moments in Predator, and it’s a book of many extremes, but just as it is in Camilla’s nature to kill, this novel’s nature is to be highly entertaining. You’ll be right there alongside Camilla, sometimes cringing, sometimes hoping she’ll get away, and perhaps feeling a little bit guilty for it.