Catch and Neutralize by Chris Grams is an ultimate feminist revenge novel. I don’t think that is a genre but I’ll have to wait and see if similar novels are published. Revenge against what? Male sexual exploitation of females, of course. While that is a serious problem, the way it is dealt with here by a vigilante organization known as Catch and Release (CAN) is extreme to the point of fantasy. There is an author warning of strong language and mature situations that appear throughout the book. Unusual situations, yes. Strong language? Not really and only occasionally.
Dr. Mark Carter is a dedicated doctor and researcher who spends a lot of time at work. His work in genetic research and a lengthy failed marriage to Cheryl has made him wish he could find a cure for the cheating gene. That is what it seems is happening with his new young wife Angie. It seems to him that she is spending a lot of extra time at her job as an executive secretary to Garry Steinberg at Hollite Coffee. Mark tries following her. He examines her phone and finds a series of calls to a number he cannot identify. He consults a friend who is a cop who does a minimal background check that finds no evidence of cheating. Still, Mark believes not only that there is cheating but that Angie is trying to kill him by poisoning his nightly cocktails over a long period of time. When he literally bumps into Laura (traffic accident), a make-up and prosthetics artist, Mark develops a plan. He will disguise himself as the suspected person with whom Angie is cheating and exact his revenge. He will never again lose as much as he did to former wife Cheryl.
What Mark and most readers do not expect is that despite all appearances Angie is not cheating on Mark. She has become an operative in a secret organization that finds exploitative males and punishes them in sometimes gruesome ways. That is what the mature situations warning is about. Because the organization, CAN, has something called a Death Pit and because there is a dedicated clean-up crew (all male) to clean up punishment sites that got too messy, we can expect new definitions of gruesome.
The members of CAN, field operatives and support staff, keep their membership secret. Headquarters issues assignments by coded text messages. These are a part of the events that caused Mark to be suspicious. Dr. Tiffany Bell, a psychologist, is a member as is Angie but they don’t know that about each other. They are thrown together in an evolving plot to get revenge on Scott, a former patient of Tiffany’s and Overton, a police officer and former lover of Tiffany. Tiffany and Angie are in complete agreement that Scott and Overton should be severely punished.
Angie may have gone bit far with a vegetable peeler as she removed strips of skin from Overton. Tiffany had been over the top for quite a while as she had renovated her basement to become a multi-room torture chamber. A very lengthy section of the novel gives us depictions of Scott and Overton being tortured in creative ways. We find out that Officer Overton made liberal use of the police evidence property room to equip local gangs to create a kiddie porn video venture. Scott spends much of his time reflecting on missed opportunities with his stripper mother.
But everyone is waiting for the arrival of Laura, Tiffany’s cousin who was molested by Overton when she as fourteen. Or maybe not. Laura arrives with a new victim for possible elimination, Kyle, an attorney. Kyle might be Mark in disguise. Or Kyle might be Mark’s twin brother. And Laura, the make-up artist, other than being a crack shot with a pistol, might also be a lawyer. This would be a good thing since she had shot and killed two gang members shortly after arriving.
OK, enough of the content. What about the novel’s structure? If we think of a writer contemplating a book sitting around thinking of plot situations and writing each idea on an index card, sort of a storyboard, that is what we have here. Then the writer attempts to flesh out each idea. Then the writer puts them in some sort of order and finally attempts to write transition bridges to link each idea. That is how this novel appears to have been done. The problem is the improbability of so many mind wrenching things to have happened to so few people in so short a period of time. I wanted to put the book down many times but I stayed with it to discover what new rationales might appear for so many implausible events. I felt no attachment to any character.
And then there is the head in the refrigerator.
I would read more entertaining work from this author just to see if there are changes in writing style.