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by Joanna Wallace

Pub Date: April 16th, 2024
ISBN: 9780143136170
Publisher: Penguin

Dexter meets Killing Eve in Wallace’s dark comic thriller debut.

While accepting condolences following her father’s funeral, 30-something narrator Claire receives an email saying that one of her paintings is a finalist for a prize. But her joy is short-circuited the next morning when she learns in a second apologetic note that the initial email had been sent to the wrong Claire. The sender, Lucas Kane, is “terribly, terribly sorry” for his mistake. Claire, torn between her anger and suicidal thoughts, has doubts about his sincerity and stalks him to a London pub, where his fate is sealed: “I stare at Lucas Kane in real life, and within moments I know. He doesn’t look sorry.” She dispatches and buries Lucas in her back garden, but this crime does not go unnoticed. Proud of her meticulous standards as a serial killer, Claire wonders if her grief for her father is making her reckless as she seeks to identify the blackmailer among the members of her weekly bereavement support group. The female serial killer as antihero is a growing subgenre (see Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, the Serial Killer, 2018), and Wallace’s sociopathic protagonist is a mordantly amusing addition; the tool she uses to interact with ordinary people while hiding her homicidal nature is especially sardonic: “Whenever I’m unsure of how I’m expected to respond, I use a cliché. Even if I’m not sure what it means, even if I use it incorrectly, no one ever seems to mind.” The well-written storyline tackles some tough subjects—dementia, elder abuse, and parental cruelty—but the convoluted plot starts to drag at the halfway point. Given the lack of empathy in Claire’s narration, most of the characters come across as not very likable, and the reader tires of her sneering contempt.

Squeamish readers will find this isn’t their cup of tea.