"When there’s a serial killer living next door, the end is predictable.” With that self-fulfilling prophecy, Seidlinger (Standard Loneliness Package, 2018, etc.) turns in a centrifugal contribution to a favorite pop-culture trope.
Blame it on Dexter and Silence of the Lambs: serial killers are now swoonworthy leading men. In Seidlinger’s confection, Claire Wilkinson is a budding Clarice Starling, a 26-year-old student in forensic science whose in-class studies are enhanced by having a practicing murderer at her beck and call. “He would be mine and I would keep him to his craft,” she says. “I’m going to help him increase that number.” The him in question is a fine lad whom she calls “Gentleman Killer,” and the number is—well, you know. The ever bossier Claire takes her pet killer through his paces, grooming him for success and raising the body count, eventually moving away from the role of dominatrix, cinematographer, and snoop and joining in on some downright gruesome fun (“Her blood, I suck it in and keep it in my mouth”). Given that Claire is altogether too smart and the killer altogether too dumb for their own good, you just know that the relationship isn’t going to end well. Seidlinger fills his pages with interior monologue that tends to aspirational cheerleading (“Do as I say and the world will remember you." "I will show him; I know I will. He’s mine and he knows it”) as well as a lot of gore (“He’s rolling the Demon onto his stomach, severed penis removed and sliced to pieces") that more than verges on violence porn. In either instance, sensitive readers will find that there’s much too much of it, while those who dig the transgressive and strange will find it jet fuel, a kind of Fifty Shades of Grey with cataracts of blood.
A stab at satire that’s certainly not for all tastes.