Title: Mr. Monster
Author: Dan Wells
Of all the books I read for last years Whitney Awards, the one that felt the most fresh and different was Dan Wells's I Am Not a Serial Killer. Although I recused myself from reading any speculative fiction this year (those speculative fiction people have a LOT to say!) I wanted to read Mr. Monster enough that I read it anyway.
Mr. Monster picks up about six months after I Am Not a Serial Killer leaves off, with John Cleaver still struggling to keep his obsession for killing at bay. When a new group of women starts turning up dead, John's confused-- he killed the last bad guy, didn't he? He also fears that the FBI guy brought in to solve the case suspects him, a suspicion that grows stronger when bodies start showing up at places where John has been.
Once again, Wells does a great job showing John's inner struggles-- he wants to be good but he thinks he needs to be bad. The series has been favorably compared to Dexter, and I do think that both Wells and Jeff Lindsay do similar things in the way they get in the mind of a soft-hearted sociopath. But Mr. Monster differs in one important way from I Am Not a Serial Killer (and even from Dexter, excepting season 5, which it strongly resembles)-- the last third of the book is really terrifying and disturbing. Cleaver figures out who the new demonic serial killer is, but it might be too late to save his own life and the lives of other potential victims. While I'd hand over I Am Not a Serial Killer to a high school student, I'm not so sure I'd want my teenager reading Mr. Monster.