A psychological novel that takes readers inside the mind of a serial killer.
Helford’s debut opens with a seemingly innocuous scene: A real estate agent shows a young couple a house they’re considering buying. Suddenly, the wife imagines horrific scenes of bloodshed in the house and begins screaming. Unbeknownst to the real estate agent, the house has a dark history: It was once home to a serial killer. The author then opens the narrative up, bringing readers into the mind of that killer, John, a nervous, punctilious man preparing to go “shopping”—not for groceries but for victims he calls “epiphanies.” Helford explores the weird logic of John’s psyche in a series of carefully controlled chapters enlivened by baroque, engaging prose (“A dark calm void filled the confusion, filled the sadness, filled John to the brim, while pushing aside his chaotic thoughts to the edges of the darkness, and John followed”). On the outside, John is calm, collected and sometimes even sarcastic; he smiles as he tells one prospective victim, “You know that in some tribal cultures, a smile is actually a warning of incipient violence.” But on the inside, he’s tortured by grotesque visions that drive him to kidnap women and savagely murder them. This internal narrative is so vivid and disjointed that readers will likely find John both fascinating and repulsive as he stews with “impotent rage at the wrong done to him” yet experiences neither remorse nor compassion. As the pace increases, the focus splits between John and a team of police investigators trying to capitalize on his few mistakes in order to catch him. The technical, procedural aspects of these sections are just as well-written and convincing as John’s surreal, violent inner monologues. The book significantly increases the gore and violence in its second half, as John’s inner demons urge him to greater violence (and seem to take on lives of their own). Fans of Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs and Shane Stevens’ By Reason of Insanity may find a new favorite author here.
A violent, disturbing thriller.