A Certain Hunger is the story of a food critic with a taste for murdering her lovers who has decided to tell her story. Dorothy Daniels has tasted it all, but from her prison cell in a maximum security prison, she can’t do much but imagine the delectable food she used to eat. Her confession isn’t just a story of the men she killed, but of the food she ate and her wealth of opinions, as you don’t just stop being a critic.
Hilariously gory and wild, this book has a distinctive tone, building up Dorothy’s ridiculous critic voice as she tells her story, weaving through lovers, meals, and deaths towards the point at which it all caught up with her. The style is full of overwrought, satirical detail, particularly about food, which, despite the killing, is probably the thing that makes it most worthy of the comparisons with American Psycho: this book, too, combines the voice of a killer with that of a snob with highly precise opinions. The food elements are intertwined with the killing—to say too much more would give spoilers—and the book is all purposefully overdone in a fun way, with a great subplot of the changes in food writing impacting Dorothy’s career.
By the end, it becomes subtly more apparent why the confession is being told, though the book follows the predictable narrative of getting caught and being sent to prison with only a slight twist right at the end that isn’t really a twist. The book is, in some ways, more of a vibe, as the actual story is almost secondary to the atmosphere and narrative voice, as a woman who knows what she wants (good food, good sex, not to answer to anyone else) indulges her tastes.
If you like self-satisfied murderer narrators, campy gore, and/or food writing, this novel brings a lot to the table, and is a fun, satirical look at a privileged and pretentious world that still seems to love the food it describes.