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On Serial Killers & Book Recs

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I don’t do proper reviews. In truth, I rarely even name 90% of the books I read, but there are those books that stand out, books that make me feel COMPELLED to recommend them. Recently, I read an early copy of Barry Lyga’s I Hunt Killers.**  When I'd heard about the book, I liked the idea of it and hoped it would be interesting. It was . . . but it was so much more than that. 

If you know me, you know that I’m fascinated by serial killers. I read bios, histories, and fictional accounts. If I watch TV, I like Criminal Minds or one of those movies my spouse calls “horror for women” (ie stalker, serials, etc). One of my exes back in my 20s was an older man who’d done over a decade in a maxi security prison (not for murder!), and I used to nag him to regale me with stories of the serials he’d been in with.***  In other words, I have high hopes when it comes to serial stories.

I taught Joyce Carol Oates’ brilliant short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” regularly when I taught university, but I have had a hard time finding a serial book that hit all the right notes for me. I wanted beautifully constructed, compelling, and emotionally satisfying. I wanted chills, but not the cheap sort. I wanted A LOT.  My standards were unfairly high.

To make matters more difficult, I Hunt Killers was aiming to integrate the disturbing realities of serial killing into a Young Adult novel.  I had worries. Will the book avoid maudlin or gratuitous content? Can the plot be intricate enough to make me turn the pages? Will the protagonist be believable without being unsympathetic? Lyga satisfied every one of my requirements.

I read all but 60 pages of it one evening, and then decided I had to stop to avoid dreaming of death. An hour passed. I realized I couldn’t wait till daylight to finish. A few days later I handed the book to my 18 year old daughter. Asia’s a critical reader, preferring Shakespeare and Faulkner to YA books these days. She read I Hunt Killers cover-to-cover in one sitting. This one is a well-written, intense page-turner. 


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** I don’t know the author and have never read his prior books. I received the book from the kind folks at one of my publishing houses (Little, Brown).

***: I don’t recommend dating ex-cons as a rule, but I was young and on a self-destruct kick back then. Note Part 2: Ink Exchange is dedicated to said ex-con, & if you catch me on an open day, I might admit that Irial’s character may be more than a little influenced by him.

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