I just finished Tampa by Alissa Nutting, and it was the best and most disturbed book I've read in a long time. Warning: there will probably be spoilers after this first paragraph, so continue reading at your own risk. It's the story of a twenty-six year old middle school teacher who chose her profession because she, ahem, likes boys of that age. So yes, it's the story of a pedophile. It's disturbing and worrisome and fabulous. And not for the faint of heart.
I am a big fan of books on psychopaths, and this is certainly one. The protagonist stalks her prey and controls them--and the situations she finds herself in--with the heartless depravity of any other creature of pure cold blood. The way her thoughts tumble around in her head match up perfectly with everything I know about manipulators, both through books and in person. Her character rang true for me and gave me a far better understanding of that self-centered narcissism than any other book I've ever read or movie I've seen. I believe she nails it.
That being said, this was not an easy book to read. It's extremely explicit and (I may have mentioned already) disturbed and disturbing. I was definitely rooting for the legal system, once the circumstances turned. And I hoped her husband would recover, and Jack, although I had more hope for Ford. Her disdain for Ford was palpable, and it was hard to believe that he was so slow to see it. But that's what happens in life. We see what we want to see. Which brings us to another level of disturbing in this novel.
The fact that these people exist and walk among us, and there's little we can do to protect ourselves. We can read all those online lists of how to detect a manipulator or protect yourself from psychopaths or whatever, but even the best experts can get fooled. Everyone has stories. Everyone has been taken in. Everyone has had to heal and move on. That's what makes it so fascinating to see the other side of the story. It reminds us of how vulnerable we are, and how inhuman they can be.