I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells
272 pages, softcover
From the publisher:
John Wayne Cleaver is dangerous, and he knows it. He’s spent his life doing his best not to live up to his potential.
He’s obsessed with serial killers, but really doesn’t want to become one. So for his own sake, and the safety of those around him, he lives by rigid rules he’s written for himself, practicing normal life as if it were a private religion that could save him from damnation.
Dead bodies are normal to John. He likes them, actually. They don’t demand or expect the empathy he’s unable to offer. Perhaps that’s what gives him the objectivity to recognize that there’s something different about the body the police have just found behind the Wash-n-Dry Laundromat—and to appreciate what that difference means.
Now, for the first time, John has to confront a danger outside himself, a threat he can’t control, a menace to everything and everyone he would love, if only he could.
Mr. Monster by Dan Wells
288 pages, softcover
*U.S. Release date September 28, 2010
Available for pre-order.
From the publisher:
I killed a demon. I don’t know if it was really, technically a demon, but I do know that he was some kind of monster, with fangs and claws and the whole bit, and he killed a lot of people. So I killed him. I think it was the right thing to do. At least the killing stopped.
Well, it stopped for a while.
In I Am Not a Serial Killer, John Wayne Cleaver saved his town from a murderer even more appalling than the serial killers he obsessively studies.
But it turns out even demons have friends, and the disappearance of one has brought another to Clayton County. Soon there are new victims for John to work on at the mortuary and a new mystery to solve.
John Wayne Cleaver has always known he has a dark side but he’s fought hard to oppress it and live a normal life—separating John from Mr Monster to survive. But after confronting and destroying the vicious killer that was terrorizing his town, his inner monster is getting stronger and harder to contain.
John has tasted death, and the dark nature he used as a weapon—the terrifying persona he calls “Mr. Monster”—might now be using him.
With the police failing to catch Clayton County’s second serial killer John is going to have to use his secret knowledge of the first demon-killer to trap the second...but will he be able to avoid suspicion falling on him, and, in the face of extreme horrors, will he be able to restrain Mr Monster?
No one in Clayton is safe unless John can vanquish two nightmarish adversaries: the unknown demon he must hunt and the inner demon he can never escape.
First, a couple of notes. This series was released in the UK by Headline Publishing Group (UK imprint of Hachette) before it came to the U.S. I have the UK versions because I picked them up at a writers conference that Dan Wells attended. I think the UK books have much better covers than the US versions so I've posted those covers here. (You can see the U.S. covers at Amazon.)
Second, I need to put a disclaimer here. These books are very well-written and descriptive. There are some gross and violent scenes; there is a very detailed description of an embalming in the first book. There is also some "light" swearing. That said, I think these books are very appealing to teens, especially boys, and I think the subtle positive messages more than balance out some of the harsher scenes.
Unlikely hero, John Wayne Cleaver (what a name!) IS a sociopath, by classic psychological definitions. However, unlike most sociopaths, but like most teens, he works very, very hard to overcome his darker side and his negative impulses. John realizes he has choices and that it's not his impulses or thoughts, but his behaviors define him as a person. I think this is an important message to teens these days; it's subtle, but it's there.
The story lines and plot points are fast-paced and keep you turning the pages. It was imaginative and unique. I was slightly less impressed with the plot in Mr. Monster, but still thought it was very good. The writing is wonderful. The characters are realistic, especially John, their thoughts and actions believable, the family dynamics fascinating.
Intense and riveting, I totally recommend this book to teens (14 and older) and anyone who enjoys a light horror story, frightening enough to get your adrenaline moving, but not so hopeless and dark that it leaves you sleeping with the lights on.
The last book of this trilogy, I Don't Want to Kill You, will be released March 29, 2011. I can't wait!
*I purchased both these books with my own money. I receive no compensation for this review.