I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells
I had been dubious about this one since it sounded so much like Dexter but the snowstorms came so I checked out a bunch of books including this one. It was well reviewed, after all. This does contain a lot of spoilers, just warning you.
John Wayne Cleaver is a fifteen year old sociopath who works with his mom and her twin in their mortuary and he naturally loves it. He also loves to believe that he’s named after John Wayne Gacy and he’s obsessed with serial killers. This earns him a therapist of his very own. Much to John’s delight a serial killer has come to his sleepy town killing people and taking souvenirs. John naturally can’t leave this alone and has to investigate. That’s it in a nutshell, now for the spoilery stuff.
It opens with a nearly salacious attention to detail when it comes to doing an embalming, lingering over every gruesome detail. This is probably going to turn off a lot of people but doesn’t bother me much. What bothered me was I felt like I was the sociopath unable to make emotional connections. John didn’t interest me. I didn’t care about him. Frankly he really was a junior Dexter without the dark humor and wit that makes Dexter likeable (even though he is a serial killer). In fact I thought he was going to start spouting off about his Dark Passenger and Harry’s Rules.
No, he calls his inner demons ‘Mr. Monster’ (well at the end, it’s just monster til then) and he didn’t need a police detective dad to give him rules. John made them up himself by reading up on serial killer psychology and then sets up rules to keep him out of their pit falls. He watches Court TV and does research papers on the killers. I thought maybe this was set in the 90’s. It might have worked better if it had been. But if you do the math Mrs. Crowley (the little old lady next door whom John helps out all the time, her and her husband), gives, this is 2009. Court TV doesn’t even exist any more (it’s been Tru TV for years). This bugged me. If you’re going to give your main character a hobby, you had better not mess up the details. Chances are the audience for this sort of book are going to know them.
And this is part of the sticking point for me. Yes John should be in therapy but all his therapist and his mom fixate on is that he likes to read about serial killers. Well so do a whole lot of people. I mean there are 2 TV stations dedicated to killers and forensics (Tru and ID discovery) There are autopsies on TV and if reading about them was oh so weird, Ann Rule and other true crime writers would have been out of business decades ago. Heck, I’ve taken serial killers for college credit. They should have been fixating on his fire starting or is emotional detachment but in the end it wouldn’t matter. I still wouldn’t care about John.
I almost gave up when the book took an unexpected bounce into urban fantasy land. The killer is a demon. We don’t even toy with maybe John is delusional. It’s really a demon from the get go. It sounds a lot like Invasion of the Body Snatchers (which dates to the 50’s), Heinlein’s Puppet Masters and other newer things where the demon takes over the body of another person and walks around in their skin. X-Files did it. Angel did it. It’s not a bad thing to revisit old ideas. I like vampire/ghost/werewolf fiction time and again. They don’t even need to do anything new with it if I like the character.
The ending is what really tanked it down to 2 star rating territory. It’s so convoluted and really exists just so we can see the monster come out and John nearly kill someone. The kid lives around a dozen chemicals that could kill someone. He knows the demon dissolves into black sludge. Um, really he couldn’t put these two together? I’m not sure what is so exciting about this book to everyone. I was overwhelmed with the ‘been there, done that and it was much better the first time’ feeling.
D. Gray-man #19 by Katsura Hoshino
In the fight against the level four akuma, Allen’s body takes a weird turn and he’s injured by his own anti-akuma weapon which shouldn’t have hurt him. As he recovers back in at the order, we get a glimpse of Allen not looking like Allen but more like one of the Noah.
Things start coming to a head in this volume. The Noah group and attack the order directly. Allen and crew find out that the order has created something called third exorcists, half human half akuma fighters and in the midst of all the battle, we start getting Kanda’s bizarre past. While it’s all good stuff, I have a nagging feeling that some of this is just a bit dragged out. The Noah are so strong, so almost perfect as warriors that it’s hard for me to engage with them.