Nick Cave's latest is the tale of a twisted English beauty product salesman and his steady ruin. Bunny is a true charlatan with a host of slimy friends and a mind akin to the filthiest of gutters. His long suffering wife suffers from depression (and from him, no doubt). His son, Bunny Jr., has somehow managed to grow into a sweet boy who loves his father unconditionally, despite being aware acutely of his flaws.
The 'noir' in this tale comes first from Bunny's hideous mind - mad with lust he is driven to to drug and rape or at least defile every female that crosses his path. The objectification of women in this book is obscene and the fact that Bunny gets his own in the end did little for me when I'd had to read multiple scenes of utter degradation. This character is the personification of what is dark about the male libido and I think Bunny is most of all a cautionary tale about when said libido is allowed to play unrestrained.
Bunny's noir feel also comes from its dream-like, even nightmarish, quality:
...through the window he can see a dark menace of starlings falling and ascending above the gusting sea and he understands, suddenly, that the discomfort that he is feeling is a rising terror of sorts - but a terror of what?Bunny lives near the sea and water is a frequent image of the book - whether as a turbulent body of water or drenching rain. Water seems to mirror Bunny's uncontrollable urges that push him toward his end. It works, except when it veers towards pathetic fallacy - the massive thunderstorm at the book's climax is perhaps a touch too dramatic.
Yet, despite all of my criticism, The Death of Bunny Munro holds water. Bunny Jr.'s sweetness and innocence nicely plays off his father's sin, the garish quality of Bunny's life is juxtaposed nicely with the gray English seascape and above all, the book is highly readable and addictive, the prose running swiftly along, sweeping the reader up with it. Bunny is the worst kind of damaged goods but his deterioration is mighty captivating. The portrayal of women still made me squeamish but Bunny redeems itself as a high-time psychological thriller.