Sadie the Sadist by Zane Sachs is one of those novels that should come with a warning label for exceptionally gruesome depictions of gore and violence. Sadie’s retelling of minute details of kinky sex prior to the termination of partners pales when compared to the impressions readers will carry away after reading her recipes. Sadie is an inventive culinary artist. So, other than fans of gore, who would select this as something to review? Why? Readers should consider this paragraph as a warning label. This is not a read for those with weak stomachs. A subtitle, X-tremely Black Humor/Horror provides further clues as to the genre of this novel. And Sadie’s recipes are never boring.
I don’t pay a lot of attention to book covers but this one captured my interest enough to request the free Amazon sample. It introduced me to the character of Sadie. She seemed to have a dry, cynical sense of humor. Her observations of a rather mundane, dull job sounded familiar. She couldn’t quit; she had bills to pay. Her bosses and colleagues were annoying. She had only her fondness for cooking to relieve her boredom. So far, the sample promised me an interesting read. The eye-catching cover hinted at possible dark deeds to come. Nevertheless, I was surprised at the depths the downward spiral into depravity the novel reached.
To get the full impact of the very interesting novel, the reader should pay attention to everything. Pay attention to chapter titles; there is humor. Look at the title to the last chapter, Under Warranty. Why was this chosen as a chapter title? There are approximately ten chapter titles that are recipes. It is difficult to see in the first few recipes the hints of things to come. The purpose of the recipes to the story becomes gradually more clear until an obvious story intent hits the reader in the face. That might be an unfortunate choice of words. If you get through the novel, look at the questions for discussion. These are thought provoking with nods of acknowledgment to great literature as the reader is invited to compare parts of this novel to Jane Austen. In the acknowledgments section, note the thanks to Blake Crouch. If you have read his novels, you get an idea of where this one might be going.
Sadie works in a supermarket at the lowest level possible. She stocks shelves, cleans bathrooms, and shucks corn. The job with corn is in the Produce Department and is a step up from the lowest rung of supermarket jobs. But Sadie is not happy shucking corn. The demands of how much corn she should prepare for store display are demands Sadie consider excessive. Many days Sadie has to spend significant time waiting for feeling to return to her numb fingers. It is not lost on Sadie that there is little mental stimulation to the job. This makes the detailed instructions given by boss Justus (nice name) all the more irritating. Not only does he give detailed instructions on using knives and stacking corn for display, Justus does this while composing less-than-thoughtful motivational slogans extolling the philosophy of successful supermarket workers and rewards that will come to them. When Sadie accidentally cuts her finger while following the expert advice of Justus (it is his fault), she is demoted from Salad Bar in the Produce Department to Courtesy clerk. Working for Justus has become intolerable; Justus has to go.
Justus has an accident. Every day he rides to work on a bicycle. One day on his way to work he is struck by a stone that may have fallen from a balcony; he dies. Sadie lives in an apartment with a balcony. Justus has to pass nearby on his way to work. This does not go unnoticed by the police whose frequent visits to Sadie are another source of annoyance. On the positive side, there is an opening for Assistant Manager, the position Justus held. Sadie does not have the necessary qualifications but does have the creativity to assemble a credible resume. Terri, not Sadie gets the job. This further annoys Sadie. Terris is as bad as Justus (minus the motivational slogans). Another intolerable situation; Terri has to go.
So where do these people go? And how do they get there? The answer to the second question involves several power tools. Sadie seems to be quite the DIY person. She had been wanting to paint her apartment for a long time. And the various shades of red she chose for her paint were good at covering up evidence.
Not only supervisors benefited from Sadies aspirations to ascend the career ladder in the supermarket. Colleague Ranger annoyed Sadie by not fully expressing his appreciation for sexual favors. Maybe instead of playing in the supermarket during breaks, she could move to an outdoor venue in a nearby park. He might get overly enthusiastic and aggressive. She was prepared for this. If it happened Ranger would have to go. Maybe the police could help her.
Eventually, even Sadie felt the help of a psychiatrist would be helpful. She found Marcus, a doctor with flexible ethics. Sadie explored the limits of his flexibility. Marcus might have to go; Sadie had to think of his young daughter before finally deciding.
There were other, less important characters added to Sadie’s mix. A homeless man, a university student Sadie picked up, Janet, a supermarket colleague who was run over while collecting carts, all contributed parts to Sadie’s story. But no deed goes unpunished and eventually Sadie will receive some sort of punishment, one administered by Sadie herself.
There are several mini-surprises throughout the novel, none of which I have revealed here but I have given several hints. This novel will take reader mind out of the normal, everyday, humdrum routine. There might be a surprise ending but it will be reader supplied. I will read more by this author and so would any reader who has the requisite dark view of humor. And a strong stomach.