“I am Not a Serial Killer” by Dan Wells (Tor, 2010)

I am Not a Serial Killerstarstarstar

John Wayne Cleaver is not a serial killer.  Yet.  He’s a fifteen year old boy with a lot of problems.  He’s obsessed with serial killers.  Not so much in the type of people they are necessarily, but in how they kill, how they see the bodies, how they feel when they kill, dismember and destroy.  It’s an obsession of the worst possible kind, because his imagination fills in the details when he sees family and school acquaintances, as he imagines how he might kill them.  He only really has one school friend, which he has to seem normal.  If he had no friends at all, he’d raise suspicion.  He also has a set of rules he keeps to, like saying nice things about someone when he has bad thoughts about them.  So far, these rules are keeping “the monster” – as he refers to it – in check, behind this wall of rules.

Maybe John Wayne Cleaver’s problems might have something to do with his father who he never sees; hasn’t seen in years.  As a matter of fact, the last time he received something from him was last Christmas, in the mail.  Or maybe it has something to do with the bullies at school.  Or perhaps it’s the fact that he helps his mother at the mortuary where she and his sister work.  But then he needs to help them with preparing the bodies, it’s part of his protective wall, keeping the monster at bay.  He also regularly sees a therapist, for all the good it does him.

Except now the bodies have started turning up in John’s hometown and his serial killer mind immediately starts working, calculating, using the clues to create a profile for this killer to find out exactly who he or she is.  Then he catches a glimpse of one of the killings and realizes this killer isn’t human, and its going to keep on killing unless someone stops it.  John Wayne Cleaver is going to have to break down his protective wall of rules and let the monster out.  His greatest fear is that he might not be able to put it back up.

Dan Well’s debut novel, which is the first in a trilogy, is a fresh new voice in the world of horror and despair.  John Wayne Cleaver is a deep and complex character, similar to that of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, who is doing everything he can to seem normal and fit in – unlike that of Bateman – while inside he’s the next Jeffrey Dahmer waiting to happen.  I am Not a Serial Killer keeps the reader thinking they know what’s going on until about half way through the book, when things take a change for the fantastic, making it necessary to get to the last page to just find out what this serial killer is, and what John Wayne Cleaver plans on doing about it.

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Originally written on May 4 2010 ©Alex C. Telander

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