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Black Static

New Horror Fiction BLACK STATIC 82/83 OUT NOW

The Late Review: I Don't Want To Kill You

19th Sep, 2023

Author: Peter Tennant

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Published in paperback by Headline in 2011, I Don't Want To Kill You by Dan Wells is the third volume in a series of book featuring John Wayne Cleaver, teen sociopath and part time mortician. I reviewed Mr Monster, the second book in the series, back in Black Static #20 (there's a link to that review at the foot of the page), when I described it as 'Dexter as one of the Winchester boys from Supernatural', and there's nothing in this new outing to make me reconsider that assessment.

The Handyman has turned up in John's home town of Clayton, a serial killer from Florida, whose thing is to take the hands of his victims, who are then left impaled by long poles and on public display. But John knows that the Handyman is really the demon Nobody, who he challenged at the end of the last book. With the help of police officer Jensen's daughter Marci, John starts profiling the demon, trying to figure out its identity, and along the way he seems to drift into a relationship with Marci. But John has made a fatal miscalculation that is going to cost him dearly and impact on those around him.

This is every bit as much fun as the previous book, with John's sociopathy in full evidence as he fights with his mother over little things, fails to realise friend Max is feeling shunned, tries to figure out how he is supposed to act with Marci, and blunders into a relationship with a priest that threatens his whole position. Also compelling are the ways in which he and Marci try to second guess the killer, with one back step for every two forward. It's a fascinating game of hide and seek, with the Handyman's traits as compelling as they are gross. And on that score the book also delivers, with some truly gruesome murders, but is never gratuitous. There are twists and turns as what is really going on becomes apparent, with a high human cost as John tries to deal with the consequences of his over-confidence for those he was closest to actually caring about. It is in a way through these violent crimes that John Wayne Cleaver is humanised; we can identify with him to a degree because he tries to control and channel his worst impulses, while the demons have no such restraint. The atrocities add depth to the story and show the cost of fighting such an implacable enemy. And on another score, we learn more about the nature of the demons, thanks to the memories Nobody leaves in the mind of one of her victims, so that the wider picture is expanded. Similarly, the idea of Clayton as serial killer central had pretty much run its course, so the way in which the story opens out at the end is promising, while also resolving plot tangles that might have boded ill for our hero's future.





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