The Killing Lessons
By: Saul Black
Publisher: St Martin's Press
Publication Date: 9/22/2015
My Rating: 4.5 Stars
When the two strangers turn up at Rowena Cooper's isolated Colorado farmhouse, she knows instantly that it's the end of everything. For the two haunted and driven men, on the other hand, it's just another stop on a long and bloody journey. And they still have many miles to go, and victims to sacrifice, before their work is done.
For San Francisco homicide detective Valerie Hart, their trail of victims--women abducted, tortured and left with a seemingly random series of objects inside them--has brought her from obsession to the edge of physical and psychological destruction. And she's losing hope of making a breakthrough before that happens.
But the murders at the Cooper farmhouse didn't quite go according to plan. There was a survivor, Rowena's ten-year-old daughter Nell, who now holds the key to the killings. Injured, half-frozen, terrified, Nell has only one place to go. And that place could be even more dangerous than what she's running from.
In this extraordinary, pulse-pounding debut, Saul Black takes us deep into the mind of a psychopath, and into the troubled heart of the woman determined to stop him.
About the Author
As 'Glen Duncan' my writing style has been ironic, digressive, oblique, parenthetical - and my previous books (werewolves excepted) have not been particularly 'plot-driven'. I knew that if I was going to attempt a thriller I was going to have to develop a more economical style and concentrate a lot more on pushing the story forward in a dramatic, suspenseful way. So I decided to give myself a new identity, to pretend to myself that I was a different kind of writer and see if that helped. Psychologically, it did. Of course the boundary between two writerly selves is permeable: Granted 'Saul Black' has no patience with essayistic asides, jokes and literary allusions, but for all that 'Glen Duncan' doesn't quite manage keep his trap shut.
The chase is still cut to, but not, I hope, at the expense of psychological depth, decent sentences and fresh metaphors. It turns out I rather like having an alter-ego. It's a bit like being in disguise, which has always appealed. What worries me, now that Saul Black is up and running with serial killers, is the potential discovery that he has even worse habits than Glen Duncan... Website
A special thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Saul Black (aka British author, Glen Duncan) delivers THE KILLING LESSONS, a dark, and shocking psycho-crime suspense literary thriller, which will leave your head spinning! Making it difficult sleep after reading this one, with heart-pounding adrenaline. As the mutilated bodies mount and the objects collected inside them scream, sicko-- a poor little girl barely escapes, injured, collapses and lands on a cabin door in the remote woods in the snow. The man at the cabin is crippled, can barely walk; no phone, electricity, and a bridge washed out. Grieving his late loving wife, and all the while an alcoholic detective cop in San Francisco, is fighting against all odds, desperately trying to track down two serial killers before their next kill. Flashing back and forth with three powerful parallel storylines, crossing several genres, Black's writing is pure spellbinding! Set in the brutal cold harsh winter of snow, in a small town of Ellinson, pop. 697, outside of Colorado, two armed and dangerous men turn the Cooper family house into a blood bath. A mother, Rowena is left for dead, and her thirteen-year-old son, Josh, upstairs with his headphones listening to music, oblivious to the events unfolding downstairs. Nell, the ten-year-old daughter, happens to be outside feeding the deer, and hears a gunshot and rushes into the farmhouse, while the men are upstairs. Her mother did not have time to get to the gun to defend herself, and she knows there is no time for her daughter to save them, without being harmed. The mother tells Nell to run as fast as she can. All Nell can see is blood everywhere and the man, is soon following her out into the woods- her red coat. She fears for her life. She has to escape. She has to get help for her mother and brother. She has to stay alive. She always carries her bracelet in her pocket; her mother gave her to protect herself, handed down for generations. The Old Mystery Guy lived in a remote cabin across the ravine. His name was Angelo Greer. He had moved in the previous week, to the derelict place over the bridge, a mile east of the Coopers. They had not met him. The bridge was not safe and had been closed for more than two years. He walks with a stick, an author, which is grieving the love of his late wife who died of cancer. A woman is found dead, raped and mutilated with a piece of a crystal unicorn inserted in her body in the California area. SFPD homicide detective Valerie Hart links this crime and another Bay Area slaying to a string of murders of women in several states across the western U.S., in each of which the killers—DNA evidence suggests there are two --all with an embedded object. Detective, Valerie has issues, from being an alcoholic and a love life gone wrong. Carla is an FBI agent, which does not get along with Valeria, (undermining her efforts) causing further problems,a nemesis, and her ex- fiancé cop, Nick –all to distract her. However, Valerie is tenacious and will stop at nothing to catch these cold-hearted killers. Meanwhile, most of the book is about the two sadistic serial killers and their demons traveling across country in an RV. Monsters created by horrific child abuse, Xander/Leon and Paulie -on a mission; to rape, torture, and murder aided by some elements where letters of the alphabet are involved. Flashing back and forth from the Xander-Leon/Paulie, to Nell/ Angelo, to Valeria/Carla/Nick, a race against time as poor Nell and Angelo will break your heart (this was my favorite part), as they try to help one another, both at a disability, before the killers come to get them for an explosive ending. THE KILLING LESSONS is one fast-paced, edgy, disturbing, twisted, and terrifying dark crime, cop, psycho-thriller combined with characters you root for, and some you want dead soon, rather than later. Mind-blowing, entertaining; film worthy and can only imagine the cast of stars. Gives new meaning to edge-of-your seat in all categories. Loved, loved the author/recluse, Angelo and Nell. Priceless. The sacrifices he made to try and save Nell (she can identify one of the guys), all the while talking to his dead wife. I found myself skipping over the violent scenes with the killers, and the cops, rushing to get back to the cabin to learn the fate of these two stranded victims.
“All fear was, in the end, fear of death. Once you knew you were dying, there was nothing left to fear. It gave you the last great gift; infinite courage.”
I am all for reinvention; however, in this case, not needed, as no matter the name chosen for the book cover; It is Killer. It Rocks.
Oh, BTW, did I mention, Black’s writing is captivating! Can't wait to see what's next.