A psychological thriller that takes readers inside the mind of an unusual serial killer.
In Swiatek’s debut, disaffected loner Albert Champion—a man who’s fond of talking to himself and prone to spur-of-the-moment rants—roams the streets of Toronto, vigorously disliking most of what he sees, including the hustling street kids, the lazy municipal employees, the jostling crowds, and most of all, the city’s homeless, who congregate in parks and on heating grates. Champion’s wife left him after nursing him through a throat-cancer scare (a fact that doesn’t seem to bother him), and now his life’s mission is to attack Toronto’s homeless problem in the most direct manner possible: by killing the homeless. “He couldn’t possibly kill every one of them,” he reasons, “but he would have to make enough of an impact to scare the majority off the streets and hopefully the hell out of Toronto altogether.” Alternating chapters introduce readers to the other main characters: overworked, slightly hangdog police Sergeant Don Wright of the Toronto Homicide Division; and idealistic, crusading journalist Mary Monticello. The shooting death of Champion’s first victim alerts them both that a new kind of psychotic, calling himself the Weed Killer, is loose in the city, and as his one-man crime spree continues, both are drawn into the chaos he creates. As the Weed Killer’s rampage garners more and more headlines, public opinion becomes divided. “I don’t pretend to know exactly what is going on with this Weed Killer,” reads one letter that lands on Monticello’s desk, “but I do know that the downtown streets of Toronto have never been more pleasurable to walk down.” Swiatek delivers a high-camp variation on Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon (1981), with winning results. The plot is fairly standard, and even includes a last chance at romantic salvation for the killer, but the author invests it with such energy that readers will be easily swept along. The author also gives Champion a hilariously short-tempered nature that many readers will find entertaining.
A well-told serial-killer tale.