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I Am Death by Chris Carter

First published in Great Britain in 2015; published by Atria/Emily Bestler Books on May 30, 2017

The serial killer who becomes Robert Hunter’s nemesis in I Am Death is a well-dressed con man who has the ability to set people at ease before he kills them. Fortunately for the real world, serial killers are extremely rare, but thriller writers love to invent them. And of course, the victims are all the sort of people readers like, although they aren’t given much substance beyond “young, attractive, good person.”

In other words, if you read thrillers regularly, you’ve read this one before. Brilliant serial killer leaves tantalizing clues, eventually directing one at the investigating detective. Unfortunately, Hunter misses the meaning of a fairly obvious clue for quite a long time, which is inconsistent with what we are told about his remarkable intelligence. But as we expect of our crime novel heroes, he redeems himself later.

Hunter’s investigation begins with a dead babysitter who was clearly tortured for several days before her body was found. It continues by following the formula of serial killer thrillers: the killer taunts the cops as he keeps killing, leaves clues because he considers himself smarter than the cops, and eventually … well, you know the rest.

There isn’t much subtlety in I Am Death. Bad parents are the worst parents imaginable. Torture killings involve exceptionally brutal torture (sensitive readers may not be able to handle some of the scenes in this book). And while bad people are really, really bad, good people are really, really good. In other words, they are boring and empty.

I don’t have a problem with Chris Carter’s prose. The story moves quickly because it’s written using the formula that some thriller writers love (short chapters, short paragraphs, the kind of book that readers consider a page-turner only because there is so little content on each page). I suppose I should give the ending credit for not being entirely predictable, but Carter only managed that by making the ending entirely contrived. I just didn’t believe much of anything about this novel, which is pretty typical of the serial killer novels that modern crime writers produce so obsessively. I Am Death is far from an awful novel, but it will entertain fans of fast-moving, unchallenging formula fiction more than it will appeal to readers looking for credible plots and substantial characters.


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