Oh. My. God.
DO NOT READ THIS BOOK. Holy f*cking sh*t. This book is terrifying. You’ll get nightmares. And day-mares.
Okay, now that I got that out of the way, let’s proceed to the review.
The Killing Lessons by Saul Black (aka Glen Duncan) was a random title I found when browsing Goodreads (one of my favorite pastimes). And then I found it on Book Outlet for a good price, for a hardcover, and ordered it.
And almost wished I didn’t. Almost.
What initially drew me to this novel was that it sounded like a really well executed crime thriller. And I was going through a phase.
The book’s blurb was slightly misleading, but I think in a way that worked for the entirety of the book. The book starts out in an isolated farmhouse during winter in Colorado. Two strange men enter the home of Rowena Cooper, a widow who lives with her daughter and son. But for the two men, it’s just another stop on a long and bloody journey that doesn’t seem to have an end in sight as they leave a trail of mutilated female bodies behind them.
For your sake, I will not go into detail about what the killers did. All I will say is be careful if you’re a female. Especially if you’re alone.
The rest of the book follows a couple core characters with a few other chapters in the point of view of secondary, but still important, characters. Slowly, as the story progresses, we slowly learn about the killers and what motivates them and we get to ride along on the hunt for them. Until the very tense and heart pounding climax.
Valerie Hart is one of the main characters. She’s a homicide detective in San Francisco. She’s obsessed with the case and constantly afraid of never finding the breakthrough that will bring her to catching the killers. She’s flawed, which makes her realistic, though we never really seem to get a full view of her. She’s teetering on the edge throughout this story until the end.
Then there’s Nell Cooper, the ten year old girl who ends being the sole survivor of the horrific attack on her family in Colorado. The blurb makes it sound like she’s a constant throughout the book, but she isn’t really. It’s heart breaking to see her go through running away from the killers, to surviving, knowing that you lost two of the most important people in your life. She makes it to a neighbor’s cabin, one without electricity or a phone. The man, Angelo, has an injury and has his own game of survival going on.
Then there’s Carla, a FBI agent brought in to help with the case. I immediately didn’t like her and could tell that she doesn’t like Valerie, even though they don’t know each other. Turns out there’s a reason for Carla acting like a bitch towards Valerie; one that didn’t really add to the story.
Clearly, I think the writing is superb. Never have I read a thriller or suspense type book where I felt such strong emotions. I think I felt almost every emotion most of the characters felt. Except, of course, the killers. Black’s writing weaved everything together so well. There were several layers to the story, the investigation, and into the characters. The only thing that I didn’t get the reason for was the Carla and Valerie subplot. It definitely made Valerie’s job harder and gave a small sense of intensity as Valerie fought it, but ultimately everything else did a fine job.
Too easily, I was able to conjure up images of the gruesome mutilated female bodies. And Black didn’t have to detail it all! Just a few descriptors here and there and bam! You got your images of horror.
I have to hand it Saul Black, I think he did an excellent job. Unfortunately, every time I was reading it, I was left terrified.
So, anyone up for it?