Top positive review
8 people found this helpful
on February 4, 2007
Bentley Little may be one of the best horror writers around today, but this was not an overnight process. Death Instinct, a book he published early in his career under the pseudonym Phillip Emmons, shows both the lesser quality of his earlier writing (though it is still good) and his potential for good things to come.
The faults in this book come particularly from the plot, which is a routine serial killer potboiler. We have a beautiful woman with a tormented past, in this case, Cathy Riley, who lives a sheltered life with her emotionally abusive father. There is the handsome detective, Lieutenant Allan Grant, who must take the lead in an investigation when a series of hideous murders occur. By page 20, you know romance is in the future for these two souls. And, of course, there are the killings, which are both shocking and mysterious and will lead the two future lovebirds together.
In many ways, this novel is indistinguishable from dozens of others in the same genre. My guess is that Little was driven more by commercial considerations than actual artistic vision with this tale. His later books offer much more originality. On the other hand, Little's gifts are apparent with his serial killer; I won't reveal the identity of this villain, but with a lesser writer, the killer would come off as weak or silly. With Little, the killer is one of the creepier ones you're likely to read about.
This may be one of Little's minor works, but his adeptness makes this book still good, even if greatness eludes it. If you like serial killer stories or are a fan of Little's other works, Death Instinct is well worth reading.