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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

The Shards

ISBN: 9780593535608

Publisher: Knopf, Pantheon, Vintage, Anchor

Publication Date: 01/17/2023

Format: Other

My Rating: 4 Stars (ARC)

A sensational new novel from the best-selling author of Less Than Zero and American Psycho that tracks a group of privileged Los Angeles high school friends as a serial killer strikes across the city.

Bret Easton Ellis’s masterful new novel is a story about the end of innocence, and the perilous passage from adolescence into adulthood, set in a vibrantly fictionalized Los Angeles in 1981 as a serial killer begins targeting teenagers throughout the city.

Seventeen-year-old Bret is a senior at the exclusive Buckley prep school when a new student arrives with a mysterious past. Robert Mallory is bright, handsome, charismatic, and shielding a secret from Bret and his friends even as he becomes a part of their tightly knit circle. Bret’s obsession with Mallory is equaled only by his increasingly unsettling preoccupation with the Trawler, a serial killer on the loose who seems to be drawing ever closer to Bret and his friends, taunting them—and Bret in particular—with grotesque threats and horrific, sharply local acts of violence. The coincidences are uncanny, but they are also filtered through the imagination of a teenager whose gifts for constructing narrative from the filaments of his own life are about to make him one of the most explosive literary sensations of his generation. Can he trust his friends—or his own mind—to make sense of the danger they appear to be in? Thwarted by the world and by his own innate desires, buffeted by unhealthy fixations, he spirals into paranoia and isolation as the relationship between the Trawler and Robert Mallory hurtles inexorably toward a collision.

Set against the intensely vivid and nostalgic backdrop of pre-Less Than Zero L.A., The Shards is a mesmerizing fusing of fact and fiction, the real and the imagined, that brilliantly explores the emotional fabric of Bret’s life at seventeen—sex and jealousy, obsession and murderous rage. Gripping, sly, suspenseful, deeply haunting, and often darkly funny, The Shards is Ellis at his inimitable best.

My Review

With his first novel in 13 years, Bret Easton Ellis, author, and podcaster takes us to the early-'80s in Los Angeles, where a character named "Bret" attends an elite prep school and a deranged serial killer is on the loose in his latest psychological thriller, THE SHARDS.

From the prolific author of (6 novels); Less Than Zero and American Psycho, we follow a group of privileged high school friends at the exclusive elite Buckley prep school with drugs, alcohol, parties, violence, sex, pop culture, and a serial killer in his latest coming-of-age saga.

Ellis uses his own life and experiences as a backdrop for a fictional story and is the book's narrator and main character.

In this semi-autobiographical meets fiction (reality and fantasy), of 1981, Bret and his uber-wealthy entitled friends with little or no parental controls spend their final year of high school in all sorts of trouble with wild parties. They are wide open.

A new kid, Robert Mallory, joins the mix, and Bret is curious as to why he would transfer from Chicago to L.A. in their final year in high school. He gets bad vibes. But the others do not seem to mind welcoming into their elite group. Robert also has a mysterious past which makes Bret even more suspicious.

There is also a background story of The Trawler, a serial killer who targets, tortures, and kills young women. Bret becomes obsessed with the story. Does he wonder if the killer has anything to do with Robert Mallory and the timing? Could he be The Trawler?

The twisty complex plot has three subjects: the nostalgic history of the L.A. landscape in the 80s, which he does well; the coming-of-age closet gay teen who wants to become a writer and a true crime story about a serial killer targeting teens.

Overall, a wicked, gritty, edgy tale with dark undertones. Dark and disturbing and not for the faint of heart, but it has twists of dark humor. From obsession, jealousy, and fear, the emotions run high with intensity.

A very long book and often gets repetitive and sexually explicit with violence. This was initially published in a podcast over several episodes. Those who enjoy Ellis's writing will enjoy this one. It would be better in a podcast than a book; however, the author is a great storyteller.

The author's vivid descriptions, nostalgic backdrop, and details of time and place make the book shine!

Thanks to Knopf, Pantheon, Vintage, and Anchor for a gifted e-ARC.

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

Pub Date: Jan 17, 2023

My Rating: 4 Stars


“[Ellis] ups the ante in several ways: he depicts a lavish lifestyle fueled by money and privilege, explores his own fluid sexuality (and that of some of his friends), and adds a lurid story of home invasions and murders (one victim is a high school friend). In effect, he mashes up Less Than Zero with American Psycho . . . As Ellis explores the theme of lost innocence, he demonstrates his skill as a storyteller.”

–Publishers Weekly

"A surprisingly seductive work of erotic horror . . . [Ellis] ably captures how Bret’s paranoia intensifies out of that emotional distance and how the urge for feeling and connection infects and warps his personality. Bret Ellis the character is trying to play it cool, but Bret Easton Ellis the author knows just how much he’s covering up.”

–Kirkus Reviews

“Breathtaking . . . a compulsively readable novel informed by suspense . . . The setting is beautifully realized not only by its evocation of place, but also by its myriad references to popular music of the day. Sometimes horrifying, sometimes nostalgic and even poignant, Ellis’s latest is an unqualified success.” –Booklist Starred Review

About the Author

BRET EASTON ELLIS is the author of six novels, a collection of essays, and a collection of stories, which have been translated into thirty-two languages.

He lives in Los Angeles and is the host of the Bret Easton Ellis Podcast available on Patreon.







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