I first heard about Dan Wells through the excellent writing excuses podcast in which three authors, including the rather big now Brandon Sanderson, discuss tips for writing. I’m not a writer but found the podcast an excellent use of 15 minutes a week, learning a lot about how writing works and also just enjoying three friends chatting. I am not a serial killer is Dan’s first book and a most interesting one it is too.
John Wayne Cleaver is not a serial killer. He is however, a sociopath and recognises that he has all the characteristics that could become a serial killer were it not for his self-imposed rules. The character is well drawn and realistically depicts the (lack of) feelings a sociopath may have. Dan uses this character well throughout the distinctive first-person viewpoint with all the interesting uses that an unreliable viewpoint can bring coming into play. Dan also manages to draw the character in a sympathetic light, which is helped a lot by being in his head and seeing some of his sweet misunderstands regarding the world. The book is an interesting genre, part horror, part murder mystery and part thriller as a new serial killer moves into John’s town.
I don’t want to give away too many spoilers about the plot, but I really ripped through this short novel. I’d agree with this tor review that mentions the few occasions where the book seems to be written from the future do seem to diffuse some of the mystery regarding the serial killer’s identity. It’s an excellent self-contained mystery which neatly unravels for the finale. There’s a bit of an unconvincing and unrealistic epilogue to the book which spoiled it somewhat. Perhaps due to the limitations of a 15 year old sociopath’s concept of the world we can’t really be shown anymore.
The novel whilst being perfectly self contained does lead neatly into a sequel, Mr Monster, which has moved pretty high up on my read list. In order to solve this case many of John’s self-made rules have to be broken..what does that mean for John’s future humanity?
After having just recently finish two books about sociopaths this one left me feeling a little bit scared. Definitely time to read something a bit happier and more human!