Monday, March 29, 2010

How does it feel to be hunted?

Is there any sub-genre more played than the serial killer tale? Hard to think of any. One way around the deadness is to write a serial killer novel that is less about the killer than it is about a suspect/potential victim. Andrew Pyper does that in his riveting Killing Circle.

The book is filled with stories, story tellers and thoughts about stories. The main character, a widower named Patrick has two loves, his son and his writing. Unfortunately his writing has devolved to writing a column about tv shows for a Toronto news daily. He spots an add for a writer's group and decides to join. The group is filled with oddballs including a comic geek, a graphic horror fan, the hot alterna-girl, the mobbed up divorcee and the creepy lecher who guides the circle. One of these people tells a gripping story about a bad man called the Sandman. Soon, they begin to fear that the character is real.

Patrick eventually finds some success which allows for much musing on the nature of writing and reading and what writers have to do to succeed. The killer, it seems, is fascinated by the nature of story and what it means to have a story.

Pyper doesn't let this get too weighty though, he's too wise for that. One of his characters remarks that all the symbolism and ideas in the world won't matter if the story itself is bad. The story here is excellent, with nice shifts in direction and a nice amount of mis-direction as well. There is just enough grisly for those that want it. Pyper doesn't revel in it, but he does threaten it. I also like what he does with Patrick, a character that becomes increasingly unhinged by the idea that he is being pursued by a character from a story.

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