Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Guy Portman has always distinguished his novels with his unique sense of humour, and in Necropolis he returns to his forte once again introducing us to Dyson Deveraux. Intelligent, witty, recently appointed as head of the Burials and Cemeteries department, and a sociopath. Just when his life seems like it might turn stale, an interesting opportunity for personal betterment comes along when he begins to suspect one of his co-workers of being a wanted Serbian criminal.
Table of contents
Guy Portman and the World of Cemeteries
We might generally prefer to leave cemeteries and burials out of our minds, but the fact remains someone has to take care of the whole business, from large-scale planning to daily maintenance. While most of us might see graveyards as quiet resting places for the dead and our memories of them, there are others who merely see them as a workplace, an industry in need of growth and direction. Not too many are those willing to immerse themselves in the realms of the diseased, but in Guy Portman‘s Necropolis we meet a man who is more perfectly suited to this world than most others.
As the story opens we are presented with Dyson Deveraux, the newly appointed head of the Burials and Cemeteries department, a position which carries with it a good dose of respect. While he is certainly happy with the way some of his life is going, there are other nagging issues he must contend with. Those include his drug-addled girlfriend, a bloodthirsty loan shark, and of course, his very own personal sociopath mindset which breeds in him a total disdain for the feelings of others.
It seems as if his life is about to grow as stale is it could ever be, when an interesting new opportunity arises in front of Dyson. He begins to suspect one of his co-workers to actually have a much shadier past than himself, possibly being a wanted Serbian war criminal.
Seeing this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for personal betterment, he adds his investigation to the innumerable problems he juggles with in his daily life, perhaps in hopes of distracting his mind from the insufferable political correctness devouring our world.
The Unlikable Protagonist
Whenever any author begins to write a story, they generally try and mould a main character who will be liked by the readers, a person many people would be able to relate to on various levels. In this case here, it feel as if Portman went in with a slightly different mindset… or at least, this was my impression due to how the character of Dyson was ultimately portrayed. To simply say it outright, I would classify him as an unlikable protagonist, but in the same breath I would like to add this is far from being a bad thing.
On one hand, Dyson is very much a sociopath and it becomes clear his hatred for the people and world around him is nearly limitless. We are rather privy to the inner workings of his mind throughout the whole story, and he does take us to many dark places which increasingly make us question his sanity and the actual threat he might pose to the people around him. He is the type of character we hope will get his just desserts in the end, in large part because we know there are real people like him out there, more or less.
Adventures of a Madman
Because much of Necropolis is dedicated to the exploration of Dyson as a character and his interactions with the world, the story moves at a rather slow pace, at least for the first half I would say. In my opinion this is probably the only real flaw worth talking about, as I felt a faster pace could have been pushed earlier on. In turn, this did give rise to a few moments where I found myself a little bored with the lack of progress.
However, those passages weren’t exactly off-putting or sleep-inducing and served their purposes; I would have simply preferred for them to be a bit more condensed. Long story short, there are a few noticeably slow moments, but they aren’t enough to detract from the rest of the book.
Once the pace actually starts picking up in the second half of Necropolis, Portman launches us into overdrive with the multiple plotlines he had set up until this point. While the side stories revolving around Dyson’s girlfriend and the loan shark definitely add a bit of spunk and life to the story, the mystery around the Serbian war criminal adeptly takes the centre stage and consistently finds ways to hook you in.
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As you might imagine, the world this story takes place in is one where few things are as they seem (very much like our own real world, come to think of it) and there are more than a few twists along the way. There is even a pretty big and daring twist at the end, which is always a risky play for any author, but in my opinion Portman pulled it off as aptly as any writer could.
The Final Verdict
Ultimately, Necropolis by Guy Portman might not exactly be a novel for everyone, with its unlikable psychopathic protagonist, twisted dark humour and generally mad plot, I found it was a memorable and original read, especially as a fan of black comedy. If these elements are attractive rather than off-putting to you as a reader, then I highly recommend you give this novel a read; it’s a unique little gem in an era of copy-pasted stories.
Guy Portman is a writer hailing from London in the United Kingdom whose novels have largely revolved around his sardonic sense of humour. A dedicated blogger himself, he never always aims to stay one step ahead of the literary curve. Some of his better-known works include his first novel, Charles Middleworth, as well as Sepultura, Necropolis and Symbiosis.