Despite paying good money for it, you’re really not sure that the leather clad dominatrix striking you across your bottom with the thin cane really has their heart in it. They keep sighing and huffing and puffing as they strike you, stepping back, pausing then coming back to do a bit more. Eventually your hour is up and they pack away their things and leave, without even as much as a goodbye. You’re left in the small dark dungeon wondering what the hell that was all about. You’re left distinctly unsatisfied by the whole affair. You wanted a damn good thrashing, not a gentle caressing. You’ll be having words with the Madame that’s for sure!
You turn around and take a look at your rosy red buttocks in the full length mirror behind you. In the low light you notice something odd about the marks. Instead of being all straight and parallel as usual, they appear to be random and criss-crossing each other. Some are long and straight whilst others are short and at angles to each other. What the…?
Angling your head slightly and turning more towards the light you swear that the marks across your bottom begin to look familiar. Could they be…? Surely they can’t be…?
But there, as plain as day now you have got your eye in, across both of your buttocks and perfectly reflected in the mirror, there is a… blurb!
“Susie Godly is many things to many people. Lover, daughter, mother, ex-wife, entrepreneur and – in her guise as Mistress Murder – one of the most in-demand dominatrixes in London.
Susie has bought herself a first-class ticket on the hedonism express and shows no sign of slowing down for anyone or anything. Yes, her marriage ended badly – sure, it’s fair to say she’s probably doing a few too many drugs – and yeah, most people would agree her love-life sits at the more ‘complicated’ end of the spectrum – but it’s nothing Susie can’t handle, right?
As she does her best to ride the wave of joyous mayhem she’s created, Susie’s attempts to live her best life are thwarted by the appearance of a mysterious stalker who seems infuriated by both her and her lifestyle. Susie’s dealt with stalkers before of course – they’re par for the course in her business – but this one operates on a different level of malevolence, and she is forced to take desperate steps to ensure her safety and the safety of the people she loves.
Mistress Murder provides a hilarious, beautifully frank, and entirely unselfconscious window into a hedonistic subculture where few have dared to tread.”
“I lube up and rootle around inside his bottom for a while as he lies there groaning with gratitude.“
Hello and welcome to my review of Mark Ramsden‘s magnificent ‘Mistress Murder‘.
Now, if that opening quote has had you reaching in mild panic for the back button on your browser, home button on your phone or scrabbling about for a pen and ink to write a very stern letter of disapproval to your local MP (who, let’s face it is probably up to their armpits in someone’s bottom in rootle-ville as we speak, just sayin’), then this book probably isn’t for you. So may I suggest that we all behave like reasonable adults here and that you calmly, I said calmly, close the web browsing device and/or program of your choosing and make yourselves a calming beverage, also of your choosing. Maybe go outside for a breath of fresh air. Put all thoughts of bum rootling out of your minds.
Look, here are a pair of very cute puppies to calm you down… see? There’s nothing to worry about here:
Have they gone? Ah, I bet they haven’t. I wager that they have just enabled safe mode on their computers, drawn the curtains and have settled down for a damn good read. A jolly good, vigorous read of this review. Filthy, filthy readers.
Well, I’m sorry to say that they may well be in for some disappointment for, although Mark’s book is full of sexy naughtiness, this review shall not be. Not because I am a prude, far from it (*nudge nudge* emoji), but just because Mark does it so much better in his book.
Mark Ramsden (who is also the author of another Fahrenheit 13 novella ‘Dread: The Art Of Serial Killing), has led a very interesting life. He may not see it that way, but to the non bum-rootling people amongst us (at least those of us who are not likely to admit to it on a public forum such as this blog, er, I mean my blog, I mean ‘a’ blog such as this… oh never mind), who may have led very vanilla lives just going about their business in a pedestrian manner, he most certainly has.
Mistress Murder has been described as “Bridget Jones meets 20 Days of Sodom” and, although I haven’t seen the latter film in that quote (it’s not on Netflix, I checked. Or, rather, someone told me that they had checked), I feel that this is a pretty accurate comparison.
Susan Godly, our (anti)heroine, describes herself thus:
“My name is Susan Godly and I’m a sex, drug and alcohol addict.
Which is fine. The only thing I’m ashamed of is being called Susan, and there was nothing much I could have done about it. I blame the parents. My name is almost ‘Sue’s Ungodly,’ sounds the same anyway. That prophecy came true when I was a teenage Goth, of which more later.
Susan is the name C.S. Lewis chose for the older sister who is supposedly too grown up by the end of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. She likes makeup and – trigger warning! – she likes nylon stockings. Yes, sheathed female legs, the Devil’s work. So I’m Mistress Marissa, professionally, when I help men become women. With a little lewd chastisement. I’m Mistress Murder for more hardcore clientele. Despite that name I probably can’t kill but I might surprise myself. Particularly if he keeps up the cold contempt, the arrogant condescension. How did we get here?“
She is also an ex-wife and mother to young Josh who she rarely sees due to the aforementioned drug and alcohol abuse, her professional proclivities and a very miffed ex-husband. But she is trying to turn her life around, in her own way.
Susan regards herself as a kind of therapist to her clients – a “transformational sex therapist” – seeing herself as helping them along the path of self-enlightenment, and as such she has enrolled on to a psychology degree with the Open University in order to leave the sex business aside whilst continuing to therapise people (new word, just made it up), and hopefully to see her son more often. But she is also a drug addict, preferring the buzz of Ketamine, amongst others, to the buzz of real life in many cases. She is enrolled into Narcotics Anonymous, and has a sponsor, but you really do feel that her heart just isn’t into it:
“Perhaps I can get clean without having to meet any more of these dreadful drug addicts. I used to go to meetings like some wear a hairshirt during Lent. If it hurts it proves I’m serious. But I never changed outside the meetings. I was a dry drunk, a clean drug addict, white knuckling towards the next binge. You can only keep that up so long before fear and anger eat you up. So you get a sponsor, maybe they’ll do the work. Or they will be a sort of grumpy life coach, guilt tripping you into staying clean.
I don’t like my sponsor much. (She keeps trying to stop me taking drugs.)“
Mistress Murder is set out Susan’s journal (hence the Bridget Jones comparison, I guess. I dunno, I’ve only seen the films), and as such is told from her POV. You really do get into the mind and world of Susan Godly and what a wonderfully warped, crazy and eye-opening place it truly is:
‘He’s seen the St Andrew’s Cross and the wrist and ankle restraints, he’s seen the big framed photo of me in Cruella Da Ville rubber, the altar with the black magic knick-knacks, the medical scenario corner with the operating gurney and the dentist’s chair, the cage, the human-sized dog kennel. My whips, canes, quirts and crops are inside a cupboard. With the dildos, vibrator, butt plugs, all manner of teasers and tweakers.‘
Tweakers? Medical scenario corner? It’s a whole new world!
Many of you, or at least some of you, are probably more familiar with fetish and dominatrix scenes through the crazy, but brilliant, Channel 4 show Eurotrash, in the 1990s.
Hosted by legendary French producer, presenter and actor Antoine De Caunes and fashion designer/perfume creator, Jean-Paul Gaultier, it took a very light hearted look at the various subcultures, and people immersed in them, across Europe. It played upon the ‘typical’ British stiff upper lip and supposed prudishness, showing us that over there in that Europe people were much more liberated and, well, more fun. It highlighted the kind of attitudes and behaviours that many a Brexiteer quite possibly voted to keep out of our sceptered isle, thank you very much. We’ll have none of that filth here!
But I loved it. Sure, it didn’t always present their subjects in very flattering lights, and it was always verging (ok, it didn’t just verge; it pushed them over the cliff of piss-take and watched them try to scramble back up again) on the piss-take side of things, but it was always fun, often titillating, and it also showed us that there was more to life than what most of us saw in our everyday lives (or would ever want to see again). It gave us a glimpse into something that looked quite exciting. Not all of it, mind. You could keep the Romeo Cleaners for instance:
But whereas many of us had to make do with shows like this to enlighten us to the more interesting side of life, Mark Ramsden actually lived it:
“[I] spent about twenty years immersed in extreme fetish/ trans/ club drug addiction, and much of the text is lived rather than fantasised – except the murder bits. I worry it might look like a glib fantasy for people who haven’t been as foolish as I was but at least half of it is a memoir from several serious breakdowns (with a few gags, although black comedy isn’t everyone’s favourite genre). Which is probably Noir, right?“
This lived experience gives Mistress Murder that extra edge, gives it the seal of authenticity, and makes your eyes pop out all the more further during the more, um, rootling parts.
I love that word: rootle. I’ll be using that wherever I can. In fact, MM has introduced me to several new words:
Vapulation: a now sadly obsolete word meaning to whip or beat. As in. “well, you can’t vapulate a dead horse.”
Rubious: the colour of ruby; dark red. Ok, this one isn’t that obscure, but try saying it in a Kenneth Williams stylee, all rrrrrrrrrolled rrrrrrrr’s and sibilance. It sounds delicious.
Oenophile: a connoisseur of wines. A big-head of wines, if you will. One of those people who drone on about the ‘hint of aircraft fuel’ or ‘the merest scent of old feet’, that sort of thing. Just drink the fucking thing: if it tastes good to you, it’s good. It if it tastes shit to you, then it’s shit. Easy.
So, as you can see, MM is not only a rollicking good yarn and will-she-won’t she tale of murdering your stalker, but it is also highly educational and enlightening, to boot.
Susan has a to-do list and it goes like this:
1. Catch stalker – Someone who knows me well.
2. Choose between two lovers
3. Beat drink and drug addiction
4. Try not to murder my mother, the pointlessly durable crone
5. Stop being a pro-domme. Become a psychologist? Vlogger? Flamenco dancer?
6. I’ve caught him. Can I kill him?
Pretty much standard really, innit?
The two lovers mentioned above are Max, constantly referred to as ‘My Man Max’ and Geezer Hardnut.
For Susan, Max is the keeper, the one she dreams of spending the rest of her life with. She claims to be in love with him, but as he’s off racing cars in far flung places and generally not being around much, her eye tends to wander towards the more available Geezer. Geezer is the name she calls him, his real name being something that you’ll find out when you read the book. She’s rather smitten with Geezer, but knows that she shouldn’t be:
“Geezer Hardnut, up from Brighton, is panting at my feet, pretending to be a randy dog. He’s a lovable hound, the sort of shaggy-coated mongrel that shouldn’t be allowed on the bed. He’s so sweet, cute for a tough guy but still lethal. Pumped up muscles, cropped hair, and too many sharp suits – the great nancy. He has some frightening scars and tattoos from his misspent youth but has renounced violence – except for money. Or when taken suddenly drunk. He is a successful entrepreneur, a club promoter, also an alternative alchemist, selling magic white crystals. I’m trying to give him up but, like his product, he’s addictive. Fortunately, I’m not too fond of Charles. But if it’s there… When in Rome…“
There’s that reluctance to clean up and get off the drugs again at the end there, which isn’t helping with point 3 on her list.
As you can see from point 1, Susan also has a stalker, someone she feels knows her well due to the intimate nature of the, increasingly, threatening messages. Geezer is a man who knows “bad people”, and as such puts Susan in touch with Sveltlana, a Russian hit-woman, for when she finally catches up with them. Svetlana sounds like someone you really don’t want to mess with:
‘“She’s…” He twists his mouth into a tight ball, breathes deeply, cracks his knuckles. Finally the muse speaks. “She’s…oooh…vicious! She’s vicious! She’ll follow you anywhere on earth […] She does not rest till you’re dead and buried.”‘
She is also bisexual which only encourages Susan even more and now she really does want to mess with her, in the biblical sense. She really is quite incorrigible.
Mistress Murder is a very black comedy. Mark has a wit more barbed than some of Susan’s playtime equipment, and much of the humour comes from Susan’s acerbic inner monologue. Take her thoughts on transvestites for example, in this case referring to that of her regular customer, and local MP, Giles aka Roxy:
‘ […] And men in drag aren’t my favourite turn on, much as I enjoy the process of transformation. This is the tranny trauma, most of them are heterosexual yet most women prefer ‘real men’. Most wives won’t stand for this sort of thing, a good looking man in expensive lingerie with his bum in the air gagging for a good stuffing. Well, more fool them.’
Mark has plenty to say on the subject of transvestism and transgenderism throughout MM, but it’s never ridiculing or derogatory; why would it be, after all he has lived that life to some extent. But neither is it a soap box. Sure, Susan has a few ideas on the matter and those are not of course necessarily those of the author, but in these days of gender fluidity and awareness, Mistress Murder strikes a pretty cutting commentary, and in my opinion helps lift the veil slightly on what is fast becoming a very hot topic.
This book is full of great quotes and passages – as you can tell as I’ve used quite a few above 😉. There’s loads to love about Mistress Murder, and plenty to laugh at and to scratch your head over. Will Susan go ahead with her plan to kill her stalker once she captures him or her or them? Does she have that murderous instinct, the necessary desire to cross that ultimate line?
Mistress Murder is a genuinely great read. I really hope we haven’t seen the last of Susan Godly. It is enlightening, sexy, dark, dangerous and very, very funny. It’ll open your eyes to subcultures hitherto unknown to many, and if you are already into the scene, you’ll probably find a shit ton of jokes and asides that pass over other people’s heads like a rubber clad transatlantic jumbo jet on its way to somewhere, er, across the Altantic. Mark described this book as ‘transgressive‘ – def: involving a violation of social and moral boundaries – which I believe is fair. This book won’t be for everyone. It’ll have Middle-England tearing its teeth out in extreme apoplexy and waving banners about at their next ‘down with this sort of thing’ meeting in some tightly butt-holed village hall somewhere. But, if you’re not that fazed by the more extreme side of life, of alternative cultures and peoples, of discovering that there really is more to life than that of which many of the broadsheets, and red tops, would like us to believe, and just like a brilliantly told, funny and clever story with great and highly engaging characters, then I encourage you to give this book a try.
It’s simply fun.
You never know, you may just discover your next favourite hobby. But, shhhhhh, don’t tell the neighbours (unless they’re hot and up for it, that is 😉).
You can purchase your copy of Mistress Murder direct from Fahrenheit by rootling through the link below: