From Publishers Weekly
Debut novelist Crouch puts a nasty spin on the serial killer thriller in this gruesome tale that, alas, folds under the weight of its ambitions. The story starts at full throttle: narrator Andrew Thomas, a successful horror writer, finds a letter outside his secluded North Carolina home that begins, "Greetings. There is a body buried on your property, covered in your blood." Indeed there is, and further missives direct Andrew to a motel outside Denver, where he is drugged, kidnapped and brought to a house surrounded by desert; there he meets his captor - his long-lost twin brother, Orson. Orson, who walked out of Andrew's life years ago, has, it turns out, been quite busy in the interim as a serial killer. Hoping that Andrew will share his passion, Orson forces his brother to participate in mutilating and killing three victims; he then lets Andrew go. Back home, Andrew joins forces with his best friend to track Orson down, locating him at a New England college. However, their plan to kill Orson ends with the friend dead and Orson locked in the trunk of Andrew's car as Andrew drives cross-country to the desert house, where matters reach a grisly denouement. Crouch's smart, tight prose displays plenty of narrative energy. The novel is gory enough to turn off many, though, and such serial-killer statements as "We all want blood. We are war. That's the code. War and regression and more blood," as well as a flashback to childhood sexual abuse, drag the story line into a portentousness that undercuts its serious exploration of the psychology of the serial killer. Still, Crouch shows real talent here, and perhaps his promised sequel to this novel will be lighter on its feet.
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Things seem to be going quite well for suspense writer Andrew Thomas until the May afternoon when he finds a letter in his mailbox informing him that there is a dead woman's body buried on his property, covered in his blood, and murdered by the paring knife that has gone missing from his kitchen. Thomas is instructed to call the number he will find in the dead woman's pocket or else the local police will receive an anonymous tip implicating him in the murder. This starts him on a journey into his own personal hell as he finds that his tormenter is actually someone from his own past--someone who has grand plans to develop Thomas' "potential." Freshman novelist Crouch, a Thomas Harris wanna-be, has created a villain who strives to be Hannibal Lector but more closely resembles one of the maniacs from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
. That film's popularity, however, should be indication enough that there is a ready audience for graphic gore, sadistic torture, and homicidal psychopaths. Michael GannonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved