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The Killing Circle: A Novel Hardcover – September 16, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In this extraordinary thriller from Canadian author Pyper (The Wildfire Season), Patrick Rush, a lowly TV critic for a Toronto newspaper whose life has been slowly deteriorating since the untimely death of his wife, struggles to remain employed while trying to raise his precocious young son. When Rush decides to join a local writing circle in hopes of pursuing his lifelong dream of being an author, he becomes obsessed with a horrific work-in-progress written by a would-be writer in the group, a possibly autobiographical tale about being haunted by a terrible man who does terrible things. Rush begins finding connections among the story's supernatural villain, a shadowy serial killer with a predilection for dismemberment that has all of Toronto living in fear, and his own unraveling sanity. Powered by an ingeniously nonlinear narrative and suffused with a tone thick with dread, this is easily Pyper's most ambitious—and absorbing—work to date. (Sept.)
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Patrick Rush is a lonely widower, a wannabe novelist, and the father of a young son. He joins a writer’s workshop or, as its leader refers to it, a “circle.” The leader is a minor novelist from the seventies who disappeared from the Toronto literary scene after some scathing reviews and allegations of criminal sexual behavior. During the circle’s weekly meetings, Patrick is mesmerized by the writing of a young girl whose unadorned yet ethereal prose reveals an intensely personal childhood story of abandonment, abuse, and stalking by the Sandman, a character who may be real, may be symbolic, and may have followed her to Toronto. Bodies are turning up in Patrick’s neighborhood, and Patrick’s concern for the safety of his son grows, even as the readings in the circle—and the behavior of its leader—become more ominous. Pyper’s first novel, Lost Girls (2000), was a New York Times Notable Book. Few are better at conveying an omnipresent sense of dread and horror bubbling just beneath life’s seemingly mundane routines. This will keep you up one night reading and another four checking the locks on the doors. --Wes Lukowsky
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Top customer reviews
who finds a writing circle to help with his writer's block, and it becomes a ghost
story without a ghost, which becomes a whodunit. The reader follows Patrick
Rush through a maze. An interesting read
Miserable at work, and grieving the still-fresh death of his wife, he decides it's time he look into pursuing one of the goals of his youth -- writing a novel. To that end, he joins a writing group he sees advertised in the local paper. Each group member spends a week writing something -- anything -- and then they meet to read their work aloud and get feedback from the others. After a few weeks spent struggling to get even the most banal prose down on paper, though, Patrick decides his life just hasn't been interesting enough. He has nothing to say, because nothing has ever happened to him. The old adage "write what you know" only works if you know something, he decides.
Thankfully, nobody else in the group is producing anything good either, so Patrick continues to coast through each meeting, mostly hanging around out of curiosity for his fellow failed would-bes.
Then he hears chapter one of Angela's story, and everything begins to shift.
Angela is a young, pretty woman whose story is strange, scary, and engrossing. It's about a little girl stalked by a killer she describes only as "a terrible man who does terrible things," and later dubs "the Sandman." As Angela tells more and more of the tale, Patrick notices parallels between what she's writing and recent crimes reported in the news. Just as he's begun to suspect her story is more autobiographical than fictitious, members of the group start disappearing -- some found dead, others simply vanishing into thin air. Patrick, obsessed with both Angela and the Sandman, becomes convinced one of the group's members, a big, ugly guy who writes disturbing stories about killing animals, is the Sandman, and when someone starts following him and then Angela herself disappears, Patrick realizes his life has not only gotten interesting enough to turn into a book, the book it's turned into is "a bloody page-turner."
This is a pretty entertaining little thriller, with an interesting running theme about the nature of stories and storytelling. By the end of the novel, it's hard to tell how much of the story we're hearing, narrated by Patrick, is actually true, and how much is simply a fictionalized version of his life -- not necessarily fictionalized on purpose. This is a common issue with memoirs, after all; no memoir is ever pure truth, right? Can we ever look at our life objectively enough to report only facts? And, maybe more importantly, should we even try?
The writing here isn't anything special -- it's well-enough crafted but not stand-out - but the story was suspenseful enough to make me want to look for more by the author. Definitely recommended if you're in the mood for a dark little mystery.
What I like about Pyper is that you can never really categorize his books in just one area.In this newest entry, our main character Patrick Rush is an ordinary guy, who is down on his luck. His wife just recently died and somehow, his writing career at the paper seems to be on a downward spiral. He longs to write "that" novel, but somehow does not seem to have much to say. In an attempt to get some ideas and rejuvenate himself, he joins a writing circle - which at first glance appears to be a mistake - until he meets Angela. Angela is a mother, but she tells tales of this Sandman - a horrible man who comes into the night and does horrible things. Rush finds himself fascinated and returns, week after week to hear more. The only problem is - the Sandman appears to be real - a dark man has appeared and is re-creating the grisly scenes that are "imanaged" and "told" by Angela.
Rush gets this idea - should he offer to write the "true story" of these murders? and why do they sound so familiar? how can this be happening? It is very difficult to write this review without giving anything away. As always, Pyper does not use the standard thriller ploys to get the story moving along. We remain unsure of the intentions of ALL of the players until the end of the storyline. There are some serious twists along the line (one in particular that I really did not expect). I kept asking myself, is it possible that Rush has lost his mind?
Pyper writes with style, he often uses poetic storytelling that lures you into a different world - only to yank you right back out with a grisly scene. He is unlike any other writer of this(ese) genre(s) I have read.On some level Pyper is the Paul Auster of the mystery world. You start off one place with the storyline and you end up at a completely different place and you never know how you got there - except that the ride was exceptional.What a wonderful read