I Am Not A Serial Killer

Bibliographic Information 

Audiobook $22.00
Paperback $12
Hardback $19.61
Kindle $8.51
Associated ISBNs 9780765322470
9780755348817
9780765327826 — Paperback
9780765362360 — Paperback
9781429934848

Rating (VOYA)

3Q, 3P

While I love this book, its a 3Q because its not the most well written book, and it may have some plotting issues.

3P because I may love it, but surprise Paranormal may throw people off and not everyone is all about the murder/sociopaths.

Readers Annotation

John’s not a serial killer, but someone in his town is.

Summary

John Wayne Cleaver lives in a small town with his mother. His father left some years ago and they rarely talk. His mother and aunt work in the mortuary below the house. His estranged sister is their secretary. John occasionally gets to help embalm the corpses.

SPOILERS BELOW! HIGHLIGHT TO READ!!

We start with a murder. Someone in the town has been slashed apart and its making headlines. It’s also gained John’s attention. John is obsessed with serial killers. He’s also a sociopath, but is quick to point out he’s not a serial killer. He writes his school papers on serial killers. He only has one friend, but John doesn’t really have friends (because he’s a sociopath) but there is one kid he hangs out with so it seems like he’s more normal. His “friend” is kind of a douchebag.

The murder gets John thinking. He goes to the place where the man was killed. He notices a pile of black goo. He heads home. He anxiously awaits the body’s inevitable arrival downstairs. His mother is unhappy that he wrote another paper on a serial killer.

John sees a therapist once a week. His therapist Dr Nesbit is the only person who can somewhat understand John and who he is.

A second murder occurs, much like the first one. John starts to think that there’s a serial killer. He starts putting the pieces together. He talks to his friend about the “whys” of the case until his friend gets weirded out. 

He and his mother have a big falling out, and John is banned from helping with the embalming. 

John goes to a dance at school with his friend. At the dance, he meets a girl and talks with her (and later realizes he likes he… sort of). They are interrupted by a bully. John calmly threatens to murder him, which scares him and the girl off.

John’s mother hears about the incident and John has to talk to Dr Nesbit about it. He reveals that he has a set of simple rules so that he can prevent himself from becoming a serial killer: not watching people, not talking to one person for long, and so forth. He developed these rules from studying serial killers, because while he really doesn’t understand people, he really doesn’t want to be a serial killer.

Near Christmas, John notices his neighbor (Mr. Crowley) picking up a suspicious drifter to go ice fishing. John trails them on his bike, thinking the old man is stupid for picking up a drifter who obviously is going to try to kill him. He watches from the trees, secretly berreating himself for only watching and not stopping what’s about to happen. However, it turns out the drifter is the victim. Mr. Crowley is a demon. His fingers turn to claws and he rips the drifter apart. He takes an organ from the drifter, pulls out the same organ from his own body and switches them. His former organ turns to black goo. Then he drags the body away to dispose of it.

John is beside himself. He knows no one will believe him, and he knows he’ll have to do something. He starts to monitor Crowley’s behavior and movements. He starts breaking his own rules, knowing he’ll need to in order to keep an eye on Crowley and eventually kill him.

One night Crowley goes out to “watch the game” but John knows there is no game on that night, which means that Crowley is going out hunting. He follows on his bike and Crowley seems to get more frantic trying to find a victim. He finds one in an alley. John calls the police and waits. Crowley kills the man and takes part of him. The police arrive and there is a showdown. The police are slaughtered. Crowley takes another piece to replace his own failing pieces from one of the policemen. 

John realizes that breaking his rules is helping him start to spiral out of control. He realizes he’s stalking the girl from the dance, and threatens his mother. Even Dr. Nesbit seems concerned with John’s behavior. John needs to come up with a plan.

John comes to the realization that Crowley is trying to wait as long as possible to replace his organs. So John devises a plan. He starts leaving Crowley notes that say something like “I know what you are/did.” Crowley starts to freak out. Crowley waits so long in fact, that the next time that he needs to replace something he can’t go to his normal hunting grounds and kills one of the people from the town, who happens to be John’s friend’s dad.

The town host a memorial. John doesn’t entirely understand the point and wants to go home. He also doesn’t understand why the people are only morning for two of the townspeople and not the rest of the people that the killer has killed. John realizes he doesn’t understand why Crowley is doing this.

He talks with Dr. Nesbit, and brings up a “hypothetical” situation to get his opinion. “Why would a demon stay if he had to kill to and clearly didn’t like killing?” Dr. Nesbit helps John realize that he doesn’t understand because the demon clearly loves his wife. 

When Crowley can no longer keep from feeding, John puts his plan into motion. He sneaks into Crowley’s house and sneaks up to his wife’s room. He grabs her camera and starts taking pictures, getting gradually closer to her. He then bashes her over the head. He can’t stop himself and keeps hitting her. He barely pulls himself away and calls Dr Nesbit. He tells Dr. Nesbit that he can’t stop. Dr. Nesbit talks John down and says he’s coming over to see him. John hangs up. He ties up Mrs. Crowley and keeps taking pictures. Then he starts sending them to Mr. Crowley. 

Crowley speeds home and John barely has time to escape out the back door. He needs to sneak around Crowley’s care to get safely home. He looks through the passenger side door and there is Dr Nesbit. The man had come out to go help John and had gotten killed for it. John drags the body out of the car after realizing Crowley hadn’t stolen any organs from it. He hides the body behind the garage. Crowley comes out of the house furious and starts hunting for John and Dr Nesbit’s body.

At this point in time, John’s mother wakes up and finds him gone. She starts freaking out. John sees that his mother is coming out of the house and so does Crowley. John makes a mad dash to get to her and the two of them race through the house towards the embalming room with Crowley hot on their tales.

They reach the embalming room and defeat Crowley.

Evaluation

I did not expect where this book was going. I honestly thought it was just about a sociopath trying not to kill people (sort of ala Dexter). There was more to it this book than that.

I loved John Wayne Cleaver. This little sociopath is amazing. Not only is he aware of his own tendencies, he is trying desperately to not become what he could be. He is such an aware teenager (which, now that I think about it is a bit of an oddity). The great thing about John is that he just doesn’t understand people’s emotional motivations (and duh, he’s a sociopath). Nearing the climax he wonders why the demon is staying in town, and it just never crosses his mind that its staying because it loves its wife. Oh John… he just needs someone to understand him.

Point being, the characters are great. Learning about the characters from John’s perspective really gives you a different sort of insight into them. John doesn’t necessarily understand people or their motivations, but we can see them through him. John’s mom is an interesting character who is trying so hard but just doesn’t get it. His “best friend” is kind of a douche. His aunt is almost sympathetic. Dr. Nesbit is the only one who really understands John, and it comes through in his point of view.

Clayton is a small town, and you can tell. Its not the most graphically depicted, but you can feel how small it is through the way John talks about it.

Plot-wise, this one took a turn on me (as previously stated). I can see where people looking for a Dexter sort of deal may not like the turn to the paranormal, but since I love paranormal I didn’t have a problem with the twist. However, despite the paranormal turn of events, I thought this was a great introspection on a sociopath’s life experience. Have I mentioned how much I like John?

Genre

Horror

Mystery

Paranormal

Readalikes

Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis

Killer Instinct by S.E. Green

Significance

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

What did you think about the paranormal twist?

What did you think about the Wells’ portrayal of a sociopath?

What would you do if you knew you could potentially be a serial killer (psychopath)?

Author’s website

Dan Wells

Awards

Reviews

Kirkus

Publishers Weekly

Why I Chose It

This book sounded like an interesting introspection into the mind of a sociopath.

Other Information

Falling Angel

Bibliographic Information 

Audiobook
Paperback $13
Hardback $19.57
Kindle $6.15
Associated ISBNs 9780312957957
9781933618081 — Paperback
9781453271131 — Paperback
9781933618098 — Hardcover
9781842431542 — Paperback
9781453246702 — Paperback
9780446314329 — Paperback
9781453246580
9781453281703
9781480480742 — Hardcover

Rating (VOYA)

3Q, 3P

This book is pretty well written given the subject and era it was written in but its not perfect.

This won’t be jumping off the shelves. Its an older book, with a plot that won’t appeal to everyone and a subject that could hold it back.

Readers Annotation

Harry Angel is hired to find a man gone missing from a medical ward… 15 years ago.

Summary

Harry Angel is a P.I. in New York City. He has just been hired to find Johnny Favourite, a former big band singer and current coma patient, by Louis Cypher. Harry goes upstate to see if he can visit Johnny, but when he gets to the hospital they tell him that Johnny was transferred to a military hospital 15 years ago. Harry calls the VA hospital and they tell him that Johnny was never there.

(SPOILERS AHEAD, HIGHTLIGHT TEXT FOR FULL SUMMARY)

Harry breaks into Johnny’s doctor’s house and snoops around looking for clues. When the doctor gets home, Harry blackmails him with his morphine habit but the doctor won’t talk. Harry ties the doctor up to his bed and goes for a walk to give the doctor time to think about his information request. When he comes back he finds that the doctor has apparently committed suicide.

Harry returns to New York and gives an update to his client. He gets information from the newspaper about Johnny’s life before he disappeared. He finds out about Johnny’s ex-fiance and bandmates. He puts in calls to the bandmates and tracks one “Toots” Sweet to a club in Harlem and an M. Krusemark. He finds that M. Krusemark is the fiance’s (Margaret) sister and a fortune teller.

“Toots” Sweet and Harry talk about what Johnny was like back in the day (no friends, hanging out with mystical people, perhaps not a liker of black people). “Toots” tells Harry that Johnny had a black mamba (voodoo priestess) on the side and Harry ducks out to check out her place of business. Johnny’s woman is dead, but her daughter Epiphany now runs the store. She denies being involved in voodoo. Harry returns to the club and talks again with “Toots” until Harry touches on some things that “Toots” doesn’t want to talk about. “Toots” clams up and Harry decides to follow him home.

“Toots” doesn’t go straight home though, he stops in Central Park to participate in a voodoo ritual, led by Epiphany. After the ritual is completed “Toots” heads home. Harry follows him in and threatens him to get information and then heads home.

Harry returns to check in with “Toots” the next day, only to find him slaughtered on his bed with voodoo symbols written in his blood on the wall. Harry is harassed by the police, who think he’s murdered “Toots.” Harry tries to talk to Epiphany, but she isn’t in her store. He goes up to check out her apartment above the store. He hears her leaving and follows her straight to Margaret Krusemark. The women discuss Harry trying to find out about Johnny. They leave and head in separate directions. Harry follows Margaret.

Margaret goes to her father, the shipping tycoon. Harry poses as a window washer to and eavesdrops on their conversation. Margaret and her father talk about Harry and Johnny. After Margaret and her father leave, Harry comes in to the building, he finds an invitation for Mr Krusmark to attend a Black Mass (satanic mass) and leaves in a hurry. He has lunch and then decides to check in on Margaret.

Margaret has been murdered, her heart pulled from her chest and put on display. Harry tears a page from her calendar (which had his name on it), the astrology map she had made for him, and anything else he thinks will incriminate him and goes home.

Later Epiphany finds him. She’s afraid for her life. She tells him that Johnny Favourite was her father. Harry invites her to stay with him. They have a lot of (not explicit) sex. The next day the police come calling again. After they leave Harry and Epiphany go to a church where El Cifer (Louis Cypher in black face) is performing. When they return after a creepy fire-and-brimstone performance, they hole up in bed. The next day Harry tells Epiphany to stay home while he goes to see the Black Mass.

Harry takes cameras and his gun with him to the Mass, being held in the subway tunnels. The Mass includes creepy masks and cloaks, baby sacrifice, virgin defiling and an orgy. Harry takes pictures of it all, paying special attention to the tycoon Krusemark. After the ceremony, Harry confronts Krusemark for answers. Krusemark and his daughter had sprung Johnny and paid off the doctor at the clinic. Johnny had performed a ritual to fool the devil, with whom he had brokered a deal, into not collecting his due. He sacrificed a soldier and taken over his life. Krusemark and Harry get into a fight, and Krusemark gets electrocuted on the third rail.

Rattled by these relevations, Harry rushes back to Margaret’s apartment to find a vase that Krusemark had detailed in his story. He breaks open the vase to find Harry Angel’s dog tags. He knows who he is.

Louis Cypher aka Lucifer, talks to Johnny, telling him he can never escape and then leave. Harry/Johnny immediately thinks of Epiphany and runs home. The police are already there, Epiphany has been murdered and Johnny realizes he’ll never escape and will burn in hell.

Evaluation

I’m not sure I really enjoyed this book, which is sad to me. I literally may have fallen asleep at times, but I trucked through (b/c I was already halfway done and damnit I could finish this book, it wasn’t that long). I found it hard to avoid the spoilers (but did discover that it was turned into an awful looking ’80s movie) since this is an older book.

I really wanted to like this book. I just didn’t. I’m not sure if it was the pacing (slow), the characters (kind of boring), the plot (actually pretty inventive) or the fact that it was a Noir (never read one of those before).

Look… its got a really interesting plot with some really interesting ideas… but I just found it so boring (though those last 40 or so pages were pretty exciting). I don’t know.

New York was pretty vivid. Hjortsberg spent a lot of time laying out the details of New York (Ts, cabs, neighborhood, and so much more). New York was well drawn out, and so was the social climate of the book. Talk about dated language! But it was so fitting. It set the mood. It helped form the world. The world the book was set in was detailed.

However, the characters weren’t super compelling. I wasn’t particularly moved by Harry Angel, or his quest. Cipher became intriguing as the book went on (and as his identity was being revealed). Epiphany might have been the only compelling character, and even then she was thin but interesting. This book wasn’t big on character.

I don’t know, I was so disconnected and bored by a book that should have been exciting.

Genre

Mystery

Horror

Readalikes

Mr. Clarinet by Nick Stone

The Long Fall by Walter Mosley

Significance

A Noir style mystery with Voodoo elements and a horror twist.

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

Did you figure out who Louis Cypher really was?

What did you think about the ending?

Let’s talk about identity and how it ties in with the book.

Author’s website

William Hjortsberg

Awards

None

Reviews

Kirkus

Amazon

Why I Chose It

This book sounded like a great mix of Noir and Horror with some identity crisis thrown in.

Other Information

Catering to Nobody

Bibliographic Information 

Audiobook $49.00
Paperback $7.19
Hardback $12.97
Kindle $3.99
Associated ISBNs 9780553584707
9780449220467 — Paperback
9781574902044 — Hardcover
9780312042776 — Hardcover
9781575110202

Rating (VOYA)

3Q, 3P

As a cozy mystery, this one wasn’t bad but it wasn’t super well written. I had some issues with the plot and characters.

I think this one is a little dark for most cozy readers, and not dark enough for mainstream thriller/mystery readers.

Readers Annotation

 

Summary

After her son’s teacher commits suicide, Goldy must cater the wake. However her ex father-in-law, Fritz, is poisoned and her catering business is shut down. Goldy decides to investigate the poisoning and the teacher’s suicide in order to get her business running again. She works with Shultz, the policeman she starts dating, to solve the crime while trying to reach out to her son Arch who was close to the teacher.

Goldy looks through the teacher’s house under the pretense of looking at it to buy. She breaks into the teacher’s locker at the gym and looks at the teacher’s medical file at Fritz’s office.

In the meantime she struggles to pay the bills by cleaning other people’s homes. Arch is acting out despite Goldy’s attempts to reach out to him and her roommate Patty Sue is acting strange. She meets up with her friend and fellow ex-wife Marla.

Arch discovers a bloody knife in a car Goldy borrows from Fritz. Goldy’s ex mother-in-law over self medicates and dies. Goldy figures out it was Fritz who killed the teacher, his wife, and was manipulating a now pregnant Patty Sue into having sex with him. Fritz tries to take Goldy  out but Arch and Pomeroy (another teacher) take Fritz out. It turns out that Pomeroy was the one poisoning Fritz because he hold Fritz responsible for his wife’s death.

Evaluation

This wasn’t a bad book, but it wasn’t earth moving. I had a lot of issues with Goldy’s relationship with Shultz and its believability. I also had some issues with Arch, but he’s a teenage boy so that might just be why. The plot was a little unbelievable, in that there’s no way she would have had tacit police acceptance of her investigating, and the whole idea of her “investigation” was pretty crazy. Goldy and Arch were the only characters that were really three dimensional. All the other characters were pretty glossed over. I don’t think I really believed the setting or action. It was a small town, but I’ve read better depictions of small towns (Agatha Raisin).

I think this might not entirely work for its intended audience. Its a little dark for a cozy mystery, and the casual mentions of spousal abuse are really off-putting. Its not as fun as most other cozy mysteries.

Genre

Cozy mystery, Gentle Read

Readalikes

Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke

A Taste for Murder by Claudia Bishop

Significance

One of the first cozy mysteries.

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

What do you think about Goldy’s relationship with Shultz?

How believable is it that Goldy was able to conduct her own investigation?

Was this an acurate depiction of small town life?

Author’s website

Diane Mott Davidson’s Facebook page

Awards

 

Reviews

PW

Kirkus

Why I Chose It

Another required read. However, I’ve secretly been wanting to see if these were any good because I appreciate a good punny title.

Other Information

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death

Bibliographic Information 

Audiobook $24.09
Paperback $7.00
Hardback $10.92
Kindle $7.99
Associated ISBNs 9780804111638
9780783803463 — Paperback
9780312081539 — Hardcover
9781845290801 — Paperback
9781849011341 — Paperback
9781429901536
9780754074977

Rating (VOYA)

4Q, 4P

This is a pretty well written book, with unique characters.

Cozy mysteries are quite popular, and this is a great example.

Readers Annotation

Newly retired PR manager Agatha Raisin moves to a small town and is accused of murder.

Summary

Newly retired from her PR job, Agatha Raisin has moved to a small cottage in the country in the village of Carsley. She decides to embrace small town life in her own way, entering a quiche contest with a quiche bought from a London shop. She loses the competition and is a little bitter about it. However, the quiche judge Cummings-Brown dies of poisoning that night apparently after eating her quiche.

Forced to reveal that she bought the quiche from a store, Agatha decides to clear her name. So she starts investigating on her own. She talks to the ladies in the quilting circle and the woman that the judge was having an affair with. She makes friends with Detective Wong who foists a kitten on her. She organizes a charity auction and sells a lot of her own items while making it very successful thanks to her former position in PR.

She eventually discovers that the widow Cummings-Brown keeps her food in a refrigerator and that she poisoned her husband.

Evaluation

I kind of loved this cozy mystery. Just enough snark and “big city to small town” to make this a completely enjoyable read. Agatha’s voice is really unique and she is trying to fit in, but just doesn’t fit the small town model.

I thought that the plot, while silly, was just great. The characters are really cute, and there’s a clear difference between the “big city” people and the small townies. You knew their frustrations and quirks. It was really cute.

I thought this was really enjoyable. I loved the tone and the idea. Its a great cozy mystery, and spawn a lot sequels so there’s plenty more where this one came from. I think its perfect for cozy mystery readers. They get an amateur sleuth with a unique voice in a quaint English village.

Genre

Cozy Mystery

Readalikes

Antiques Bizarre by Barbara Allan

The Body in the Big Apple by Caroline Graham

Significance

A great example of someone going from a big city to a small town and how hard it can be to adjust.

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

What did you think of Agatha’s personality?

Was it believable that judge Cummings-Brown didn’t choose Agatha’s quiche?

Why do you think Agatha kept the kitten?

Author’s website

M.C. Beaton

Awards

 

Reviews

PW

Kirkus

Why I Chose It

I wanted to try another cozy mystery, and this series kept catching my eye at the library and in the Genreflecting book.

Other Information


 

Last Days

last-days

Bibliographic Information 

Audiobook $9.99
Paperback $11.52
Hardback
Kindle $9.99
Associated ISBNs 9780980226003
9781566894166 — Paperback
9781448715893 — Prebind
9780980226065

Rating (VOYA)

4Q, 3P

This is a really well written book. There are some disjointed parts, but its pretty great otherwise.

This is a really hard read, and really disturbing material so it will be hard to get too popular.

Readers Annotation

Kline has been abducted by a cult of mutilation and must escape.

Summary

Kline has recently lost his hand. He cut it off himself to escape the Man with the Hatchet and then self-cauterized. He starts getting calls from 2 mysterious men saying he should come to them. When he doesn’t come, they take him.

At the compound, Kline is told that he needs to asked to solve the murder of a limbless saint who might not actually be dead. All of the residents hold him in high regard because he self-cauterized his amputation. The cult of mutilation believes that the more amputations you have, the closer to God you are. He starts to suspect that something is wrong with the story he’s been told. He tries to talk to the high ranking members but can’t. So the leader drugs him and cuts off three toes so he can talk to them.

He talks to the ranking members and discovers they’ve been told a different reason why he’s there. He tries to find thesaint who’s death he was supposed to solve and finds him alive.  He wakes framed for the murder of the saint and tries to kill the leader to escape.

He comes to in a hospital missing his arm. The police question him but he gives no answers. The cult tries to murder him in his sleep and proclaims they will hunt him down. He is rescued by another mutilation cult full of Pauls. The Pauls nurse him to health and let him leave. Kline goes back to his apartment, gets assaulted by the police and re-abducted by the cult of mutilation. One of his abductors is actually a spy for the Pauls and admits that the cult will never leave him alone.

He goes back to the cult alone and slaughters the high ranking members, and then heads back to the Pauls, baricades the door and sets the place on fire.

Evaluation

Wtf did I just read? AKA the most disturbing book I’ve read. Truth be told, this is the single most disturbing book I’ve read. Now, it wasn’t bad, but I don’t want to say it was good because that implies I enjoyed it but I don’t like the idea that I actually liked it. … Its disturbing, and disturbingly good. I don’t want to like this book, but I couldn’t stop reading it. This book is rough to read. Its disturbing in a completely non-paranormal way.

Kline is just enough of a mystery himself to be compelling, and his complete loss of knowledge in the first half echoes the reader’s. We’re dropped in this cult with no idea how we got here and no idea how to get out, which is exactly where Kline is. Kline’s two friends in the cult are sort of sketched out, but not fully formed. Most of the characters aside from Kline and the cult leader are pretty sketchy, but they’re not important.

The first half of the book “The Brotherhood of Mutilation” is better plotted than the second half “Last Days.” The characters aren’t really three dimensional, they’re devoted cultists. We don’t really get why, and I think that is intentional.

I think Horror fans would like this one. Its disturbing and dark, and even days after reading it, it leaves pieces with you.

Genre

Horror, Mystery

Readalikes

15 Miles by Robert Scott

Birdman by Mo Hadyer

Significance

A novella that became a book. Really atmospheric and disturbing.

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

What did you think about the Brotherhood of Mutilation?

Did Kline handle the police the right way in the hospital?

Should Kline have burned the Pauls but left the Brotherhood?

Author’s website

Brian Evenson

Awards

The Reading List (RUSA): 2010

Reviews (hard to find reviews for this book)

Goodreads

AV Club

Why I Chose It

It sounded like an intriguing mystery…

Other Information