A teacher witnesses the birth of a serial killer in the form of one of her students in this debut psychological thriller.
Libby Teach barely escaped a serial killer when she was 9 years old: her own Uncle Roger, who molested her and warned her to never tell. Now she works as a sixth grade teacher. One of her students is Russell Thomas, the son of a serial killer. Roger Allen Watson—the Trailer Park Murderer, who met his end via lethal injection—raped Russell’s mother when she was just 14. She now works as a stripper and prostitute, and her boyfriend, Wayne Jetsoe, molests 12-year-old Russell whenever he gets the chance. Russell likes Miss Teach: “She was pretty and seemed to care about all of her students even Russell. Maybe especially Russell. She often stood by his desk when she was lecturing about history and smiled at him like they shared a secret or something.” For her part, Libby is starting to worry about Russell and the violent things he writes in his journal. Is it possible that he may have inherited a few things from his father—the same man who molested Libby when she was a girl? Funk’s plot is an intricate dance between the various characters: not just Libby and Russell, but also others, including psychotic Wayne and handsome policeman Mike O’Malley, the protagonist’s love interest. The author’s prose is broad and simple: “Bud was the local go to guy for most drugs. Users like Leo were always looking for a new way to get high and forget about their miserable existence. Ironically, Bud was a conscientious drug dealer. He didn’t want his regulars getting messed up and dying.” Funk attempts to not only show how a serial killer behaves, but to identify the childhood roots of that behavior as well. In that sense, the book succeeds: Readers will feel badly for Russell even as they are horrified by what he is becoming. While the presentation is not quite as smooth as it could be, the novel is generally thrilling and thoroughly unafraid to take readers to some very dark places.
A sometimes-bumpy but always compelling tale about a budding murderer.