Review: Of The Riverside
By Nadia Bruce-Rawlings
George Gad Economou is an interesting cat, that’s for sure, and Of The Riverside is an interesting book. A “memoir” of a serial killer whose only true friend and whose mentor is a duck, this book really pulls the reader in. Thomas Flower, our protagonist, begins the tale with an introduction to his short life. At the age of 29, he has already killed 39 people, having begun at the tender age of 14 shortly after he met Duck. We are taken through that meeting, where he meets Duck at the riverside, and Duck goads him into joining a nude girl swimming just around the bend. He joins her, they end up having sex, and then Duck urges him quietly to kill her so she cannot accuse him of rape.
“Hence, I drowned gorgeous Dolores—who would undoubtedly have become a beauty queen one day—and tasted death for the first time. I’ll never forget the adrenaline rush that overwhelmed every fiber of my body when she stopped struggling; I stared at her lifeless body floating on the shallow waters, the knowledge I had taken a life overwhelming me and causing me to tremble with spasms of sheer excitement. This sensation of absolute power made me who I am and, as I found out a little later, it was precisely what Duck had wanted to show me.”
Thomas assures us his life is good, he is popular, has a good family, lots of love, etc...not what one would expect from a killer such as himself. We follow him as he finishes high school in a small town in Denmark, growing up with typical teen angst, though perhaps a bit more “off” than some. He makes fun of those who drink too much and live a life of mediocrity. He wants to graduate and travel the world, and really live life. He finally, after many delays and one more murder, does leave for a bigger town, but still not as large as say Copenhagen. He ends up working a dead end job as a sales clerk at a 7-11, drinking all day, living a life of mediocrity and being controlled by his girlfriend. All the things he has made fun of for years. Duck won’t let him forget that he is meant for more than this mundane life.
I’m not going to ruin this with more spoilers. Basically, we follow Thomas to Copenhagen and then to Athens as he spirals downward with alcohol, drugs and murder. He’s a fascinating character, and Economou writes him splendidly. I did find the stream-of-consciousness bits where we see Thomas really spiraling to be a bit difficult to read…no punctuation at all, etc. But it was a great way to show his disturbing thoughts. And disturbing they are, more so because he manages to seem so normal on the outside. The tale ends rather dramatically, and we’re left to wonder a bit just how long Thomas can continue to live the way he currently is.
Economou’s writing is very good - he is clearly well educated and very thoughtful. There are a few “thesaurus words” but they are forgivable. This story, this look into the mind of a serial killer, is really engaging. It’s a tad long at 451 pages, but then again, to truly see this character develop as we do, perhaps the length is necessary. I look forward to reading more of Economou’s work after this splendid introduction.