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VINE VOICEon 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.
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on August 7, 2002
Phillip Emmons, a pseudonym for horror author Bentley Little, is the author of the serial killer novel "Death Instinct". Published early in Little's career, this one is different from the horror novels that have made Little a household name in the realm of horror fiction. While not a fan of the serial killer novel genre, I found "Death Instinct" to be very entertaining, but not difficult to determine/guess the identity of the serial killer.
The story involves a series of gruesome murders in Phoenix that has police baffled. They can't seem to find any clues and only begin to realize the truth when being tipped off by someone romantically involved with a member of the force. A young boy is actually the one who first suspects the killer. It's difficult to give many details about the book without giving away key elements of the plot and/or clues to the killer.
Needless to say, the identity of the killer shouldn't come as a surprise. It might be a bit farfetched, but the explanation behind the killer's motives is logical. If you enjoy serial killer novels and can locate this one (it's been out-of-print for many years), grab it and enjoy it.
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This novel, one of the author's early works, was originally released under the author's pen name, Phillip Emmons. There is little in it that reminds one of some of the author's later works. Instead of a highly imaginative, horror novel, this is a pretty straightforward novel about a serial killer. Still, there is just a little bit of a twist in the tale.

The plot is somewhat formulaic and much more commercial than some of the author's later efforts, and lacks some of the creativity a fan of the author has come to associate with this author's work. Still, this is not a book that fans of the author's horror fiction should pass up, as there are some surprises in store for the reader.

In Phoenix, Arizona, Cathy Riley is a young, pretty woman who lived a somewhat reclusive life with her disabled father, a nasty man with whom she stays out of duty. Cathy lives across the street from a house where a woman and her mentally handicapped son, Randy, have moved in. There is something not quite right about this mother and son duo.

Meanwhile, a series of grisly murders have been taking place in Cathy's neighborhood, murders that are being investigated by Detective Allen Grant. When Cathy's path crosses that of the detective, an attraction begins to blossom into something greater. Meanwhile, the body count rises, and soon Cathy herself is in danger.

The best thing about this book is the serial killer himself. While the discerning reader figures out early on who the serial killer is, the twist in the tale has to do with how and why he kills. It is here that the reader sees a glimmer of the author Bentley Little will become.
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on February 24, 2010
Spoilers alert---don't read further if you don't want to know what this book is about.

Death Instinct's description on the back of the book is what caught me. It's my first Bentley Little novel. The murders in this book are extremely strange, defiantly from the mind of a brilliant psychotic. Cathy lives with her bitter father. Her brother David traumatized her when she was younger. However, the whole David issue had me a bit confused. He enjoyed being naked and showing himself to her, he let his friends watch her use the restroom and he killed a rabbit naked. But it never mentions if he raped her or something else horrible. The book kind of leads the reader to wonder about David but there's never any answers. Also the terror that happened in the house across the street isn't really explained other than on the back cover. Unless I just don't remember this part. Jimmy is the kid who lives down the street, he's alone. His father is out all the time and just doesn't have time for Jimmy so Cathy plays guardian for the boy. When the new neighbors move in Jimmy and Cathy are hopeful that they have a child Jimmy can play with. They do have a child but he's not the playing type.

The West's moved into the old house where the previous owners died in. The mother is nothing close to friendly and the boy is retarded. But when you look at him, he has an evil look about him. Something isn't right. Soon the killings start. They are horrible and twisted with no order to them at all. The book is very good at not letting the reader know who the killer is too early. As the victims pile up the reader is hooked, unable to put the book down. When Randy, the retarded boy is finally named as the killer, I was wondering if this could be possible. Then when Cathy gets into his house, searching for Jimmy who Randy has taken and discovers the naked man tied to the bed, I was thinking where is this taking me. Then to discover he's retarded too, wow! That's just sick.

Cathy is a very likable character as in Allen, the cop. And Jimmy, he's just great. I didn't understand the twist with his father though and the reading of the ritual and witchcraft book. It felt like that was just thrown in there to throw the reader off. Also the chase to find Randy at the end felt overdone. I think the book should have ended in the house when they found Cathy and Robert. The extra killings felt like too much and over the top for the little retarded boy.

Over all, this was a good book, I don't feel I wasted my time with this book but I do feel a little in shock. Read the book, you'll enjoy it.
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on February 1, 2012
My son and I are both Bentley Little fans and have read a lot of him. We both agreed this was by far his best since you don't know who the serial killer is until the near ending. It's a graphic book, so not for the squeamish. If you have read Bentley Little before and like his style, you have to add this to your list. The characters were also very realistic and believable.
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on October 10, 2001
The overall premise of this book is intriguing. A vicious serial killer (the only killings that rival these are the ones in Messiah) is stalking a small area in the city of Phoenix, and between killings we are introduced to Cathy (the novel's central character), her (so mean that its unrealistic) father, Allan (the local know-it-all cop who's hunches are always correct), Jimmy (the nice neighbor kid who's alchoholic father doesn't care about him), and the weird lady and her mentally retarded son who just moved into the haunted house across the street. As the story develops and the characters are intertwined (I bet you don't have to read any more than the list of characters in this review to realize who gets romantically linked. Half of the book is an effective who-done-it, but when we finally find out who is behind the killings, the brakes are slammed on and the reader is forced to ask his or herself "Could _____ actually do that?" The answer is probably not, but the story is still quite chilling and the prerequisite "visit to the expert on the subject" scene is very good. Its hard to write an effective review without placing spoilers all over, but I would recommend this book to anyone who loves the serial killer horror genre. It's an interesting twist on the convention.
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on April 9, 2013
Bentley Little by any name is still one of the best authors of the macabre. His characters and places are real and complete. I just started this book and am completely enthralled and ready to be scared to go to bed without checking under it first! Buy anything by Bentley Little, the best American horror author since Stephen King.
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on June 26, 2014
This book is about a woman named Cathy who lives with her trash talking father, who is an invalid. A strange woman and her retarded son move in across the street, then these strange killings start all around the neighborhood. The killer appears to be intelligent and the murders are well executed and gruesome. Cathy was once abused by her brother and soon notices that the new boy across the street, Randy, reminds her of him.

The book was a little longer in parts than it needed to be with an excess of description.

Not as good as Dominion or The Haunting or The Resort. I'd start with those. Because this book wasn't nearly as good.
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on April 21, 2011
Just when you think have heard/read it all comes this older story by Little. Filled with strong characters that you cared about. Once you finally find out what is going on you will be suprised.

I could not put it down! If you like horror novels-read this-something you have never read before!
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on November 9, 2008
They say, the older books of an author is normally the better ones. This is definitely the case for Mr Little. Comparing this to The Vanishing which I read later, it was a case of Mr Little being thankful that I read this book first. For if it was the other way round, I might have opted to skip all of his other books.

Death Instinct introduces a "savant" to us and it is thrilling in every sense. Little ends every chapter at a point which you cannot stop and you end up finishing the book pretty quickly.

The only low point is that the killer was not kept on wraps long enough, otherwise it would definitely have been a 5 star book. Otherwise, the way Little ravels around characters every chapter and then link them up together is truly one of the areas I am most impressed of.
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