Slap-dash execution turns Povey’s debut thriller, the tale of a man’s plan to take down a secret ring of serial killers, into a tiresome mess.
Working on the docks one day, our hero (known throughout only by his pseudonym, Douglas Fairbanks) is attacked by notorious murderer Grandson-of-Barney (a not-so-funny play on Son of Sam, perhaps?). Somehow, after a struggle, Grandson ends up dead, and Douglas ends up holding a newspaper notice taken from the would-be-killer’s wallet leading him to an outing at a mysterious Chicago club. The club, as it happens, is for serial killers—a regular evening of fun for the homicidal set—and Douglas, for reasons never fully explained, takes quite a cotton to the place. There’s just one problem—not being an actual serial killer, Douglas is somewhat short on gory tales with which to regale the other members, and after a while, some of them start to get suspicious. Afraid they might blow his cover, he kills them. It’s on account of these killings that FBI Agent Kennet Wade gets in touch, insisting that Douglas help him break this whole band of murderers. And so they do, picking off the crew in one humdrum slaying scene after another. Equally uninspired are the club’s dinners, wherein the members assemble to trade bad jokes, banter witlessly and otherwise bore the reader to tears. Povey’s constantly shifting characterizations also drag things down. The club’s widely respected alpha-male turns into a nervous, sniveling wreck. Charming storytellers become towers of tedium. Douglas himself slides from ladies’ man to pants-wetter to cold-blooded killer all in a matter of pages. Who knows? Maybe that’s the serial-killer way. Still, it would have been nice to have something backing these transformations beyond just vague authorial say-so.