Welcome to the special serial killer edition of Good Reads. And we’re going to start young. At 15, in fact.
John Wayne Cleaver is a teenager, just diagnosed as a sociopath. The thing is, Cleaver knows what he’s destined to become. He stopped publicly slicing up rodents while they were still alive once he found out it was considered gross and disgusting by regular folk.
Cleaver is, you see, trying to learn how to be normal. He doesn’t want to turn into a serial killer; he’s fighting it, as hard as he can.
I Am Not A Serial Killer (2010) is a fascinating look at an amoral young man who’s trying to turn himself into a productive and law-abiding citizen. This novel by Dan Wells is a Young Adult take on the great Dexter television series, as the residents of Cleaver’s small town discover that there really is a serial killer in their midst.
Cleaver wants to find out who it is. And Wells tries his darnedest to get us inside Cleaver’s head, delivering a fun and entertaining read that will leave you starting at every odd noise coming out of the shadows.
Author Giles Blunt’s best-selling Forty Words For Sorrow (2001) introduces a Canuck cop, Detective John Cardinal, a police officer so obsessed with believing that three teenaged runaways have met with foul play that he’s been knocked off the homicide squad. Cardinal’s boss considers him to be out of control.
Then one of those murdered teen’s bodies is discovered, and the game’s afoot. But the case now includes a new partner, the francophone Liz Delorme, supposedly transferred out of internal affairs, where she investigated the rogue cops. It’s a particularly odd pairing, one that Cardinal, who has a guilty conscience, sees as too much of a coincidence to be ignored.
Nonetheless, there’s a serial killer to be found, and Forty Words For Sorrow is a thriller that also introduces us to the murderers — there are two of them — and their difficult-to-stomach joy in the pain and terror of others. The book is filed in the fiction stacks, under the author’s name.
Then of course, there’s actual murderers. This kind of reality is not funny nor entertaining, but it’s certainly interesting. In the book Entering Hades: The Double Life Of A Serial Killer (2007), John Leake pulls together the many strands of the life of Jack Unterweger, a Viennese man who was pardoned for murdering a woman after serving 15 years in jail. Unterweger’s writings had gained him literary cachet and convinced many powerful people that he had been rehabilitated.
Soon after his release, however, prostitutes in different cities began to disappear, their decomposing bodies eventually found displayed in ritualistic poses, and all tortured in the same manner.
This true tale follows Unterweger, his friends, and police and prosecutors through the complex investigation. Supporters love Unterweger and cannot accept that he may be guilty; police have a frustrating time digging up solid evidence against a man who spends so much time with police that he seems to know everything they’re thinking and doing….
Entering Hades, filed in the true crime section at the back of the library, will leave you wondering until the very end. But can such a book help us truly understand a serial killer? No. And for the sake of everyone else’s sanity, that may be a good thing.
– Eleanor Brown, May 13, 2011