Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Young Adult
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*This book was provided by the Publisher for review. No compensation was provided and all opinions are strictly my own.
Rule One—Nothing is right, nothing is wrong.
Rule Two—Be careful.
Rule Three—Fight using your legs whenever possible, because they’re the strongest part of your body. Your arms are the weakest.
Rule Four—Hit to kill. The first blow should be the last, if at all possible.
Rule Five—The letters are the law.
Kit takes her role as London’s notorious “Perfect Killer” seriously. The letters and cash that come to her via a secret mailbox are not a game; choosing who to kill is not an impulse decision. Every letter she receives begins with “Dear Killer,” and every time Kit murders, she leaves a letter with the dead body. Her moral nihilism and thus her murders are a way of life—the only way of life she has ever known.
But when a letter appears in the mailbox that will have the power to topple Kit’s convictions as perfectly as she commits her murders, she must make a decision: follow the only rules she has ever known, or challenge Rule One, and go from there.
Katherine Ewell’s Dear Killer is a sinister psychological thriller that explores the thin line between good and evil, and the messiness of that inevitable moment when life contradicts everything you believe.
In Dear Killer, Katherine Ewell tells the story of Kit, a serial killer that follows a methodical killing code. Kit believes that she is a higher power that serves to enact justice on her victims. This was certainly a winning formula for Dexter – think lovable Showtime murderer and not Darkly Dreaming Dexter from the novels. I certainly love Dexter as much as the next girl (unless this is not something us girls love, then just kidding…), however this story line does not translate as well into a young adult novel. Although I would love to have been a fly on the wall when the idea was created. Cue to person A turning off Netflix after watching Dexter throw Deborah’s body off of a sailboat…
Person A: Hey, how about a book about a 15 year old killer.
Person B: Don’t be ridiculous.
Person A: Well, how about 16 then?
Person B: That is waaaay too young to be believable.
Person A: Maybe 17 …
Person B: Amazing! It’s so obvious, why didn’t we think of this sooner?!
In all honesty I spent most of this book groaning that the writer had never met a seventeen-year-old girl, but then it happened…I finished the book and I read the writer’s description on the book jacket….and the writer is in fact seventeen. My mind was blown! Now maybe if I had read the authors description first I would have been oohing over the book thinking, “wow, what a talented gal!” because it is very impressive to be published at that age (I mean holy cow, right?!).
Though I wasn’t expecting a valley girl as our leading lady, how many teenage girls say things like (and please use your best movie announcer dramatic voice here)
“I remember my first kill in vivid detail. It was the sort of memory that came up sometimes and could not be ignored or thought about halfheartedly…It seemed so strange to me, remembering, how horribly I had hated it. Death. Death was natural. I had cried for the boy. God, I had been so young then.”
And let’s face it, the book was mostly Kit walking around London having such epiphanies as
“I was haunted by a memory…a memory of a room where I had spent so long training with my mother – only a snippet really”
“[t]he memory shocked me through with something akin to fear”
plus scatterings of random murders.
So let’s ignore the fact that I am not so far from seventeen myself to have completely forgotten how a seventeen year old girl speaks. Maybe we are meant to evaluate the character based on a mental disorder. Kit is definitely suffering from illusions of grandeur (you could buy a Grande Starbucks Macchiato if I gave you a penny for every time Kit mentions “I am a ghost, I am the Perfect Killer”) and is highly functioning by fitting in well despite of her flat personality. So perhaps a psychopath with a bit of split personality disorder mixed in since she picks an alternate persona for herself as the killer. A psychopath is categorized as someone that is amoral and lacks remorse and empathy. So then why does Kit continue to experience feelings of guilt? When she commits a murder outside of her code she actually experiences panic attacks. She questions herself View Spoiler » after she kills her friend and she even fails to kill another victim because she questions the morality of her actions. « Hide Spoiler In the end though, killing is so ingrained in her that she actually believes she is doing the right thing. She believes that with fear she is bringing the city closer together. She’s actually not a psychopath then since she is acting morally (just according to her own moral compass). So is the reader supposed to believe that she is not a psychopath? That nurture (her extensive “murderer training” from her mother) trumps nature? That normal teenagers have the resolve to kill? I’m leaning more towards a poorly thought out character.
Probably the most unbelievable part of this story is the relationship between Kit and Alex. The detective, Alex, accepts Kit into his investigation in a heart-beat. He comes over to her house for dinner, then Kit pulls the old “fool-the-police-by-bringing-in-pastries-to-the-station-so-they-assume-you-are-trustworthy” trick, drops some insight into the Perfect Killer case, and BAM – she’s in! The next time they meet he invites her to a crime scene. Alex actually says “at this point, I’m willing to try anything” and lifts the police tape…of a murder scene…to a seventeen-year-old girl. So I’m lead to believe that either British police departments are led by dimwits or this is a poorly thought-out story line. From here on out it becomes even more ludicrous as the detective continues his camaraderie with a high school student over regular lunches and discussions of internal police investigations. View Spoiler »When Alex is given orders to obtain a DNA sample from Kit, they meet for a one -n-one lunch and she manages to remove each piece of silverware from the table, clean it with hydrogen peroxide, dry the silverware, and place a small amount of “bottled DNA” on the silverware. She does this while he is in the bathroom you say? Nope, while they are talking. Thank goodness there was an easily available DNA sample she could steal from her science lab at school (did I mention that she is seventeen?). Poor Alex, he probably has trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time. « Hide Spoiler
Although meant to be shocking, the whole plot left me unable to believe it – and this is coming from a woman who enjoys stories about fanciful things like unicorns. Maybe if it hadn’t started out on the premise that people left the killer their “request letters” in a ladies bathroom, and somehow two generations of killers haven’t been caught yet. I’d recommend that you the reader take the story for what it is, a book written for a younger audience. If you’re not in that category then you will find it lacking. That said, I think Ewell is a gifted young lady and will continue to develop as a writer and have a promising career ahead of her.
Rating: 1 sample of human DNA (out of a crowded room)