Science fiction and fantasy
I Am Not A Serial Killer
by Dan Wells
The whole community is terrified by the deaths. John is determined to analyse the killer's methods and build up a psychological profile, and he begins by seeing it as something of a case study. But what if the murderer isn't human at all, but a demon? (We're told this in the first few pages, so that's not really a spoiler.) The race is on for John to find a way to stop the creature before it claims another victim, yet in order to succeed John needs to unleash his dark side. If he survives, will he ever be able to get himself back under control?
John Cleaver is intriguing, but his oddness isn't the only thing making I Am Not A Serial Killer compelling. Dan Wells has carefully researched things like embalming and serial killer profiling, and there's a certain lurid attraction to all the morbid and gory details. There are also some very funny moments in the book, when John gives us a glimpse of his sharp, black sense of humour.
The novel has a lot of light and shade, covering a range of emotions. There's poignancy in the way John relates to his absent father, and his interactions with his only friend, Max. He's confused by his feelings for Brooke, a girl his age. And throughout it all there's a slow build-up of tension whilst he battles with outer and inner demons.
Sociopaths may be outside the range of most people's experience, but I was surprised at the novel's level of realism. If you know anyone diagnosed with high-functioning autism / Asperger's syndrome, traits such as obsessive interests, hyper-focus, difficulties relating to people and the constant struggle to appear normal will be very familiar. So even when John's having the darkest thoughts it's easy to believe in him.
I Am Not A Serial Killer is very different from most urban horror, largely due to the sheer personality of its protagonist. He's a revelation, the kind of character you won't want to forget about in a hurry.
30th March 2010
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Review © Ros Jackson
Read more about Dan Wells
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