I Am Not A Serial Killer by Dan Wells
I Am Not A Serial Killer is the story of John Cleaver, a 15-year-old sociopath who works in a mortuary, dreams about death, and thinks he might be turning into a serial killer. He sets strict rules to keep himself “good” and “normal,” but when a real monster shows up in his town he has to let his dark side out in order to stop it–but without his rules to keep him in check, he might be more dangerous than the monster he’s trying to kill.
John Wayne Cleaver is dangerous, and he knows it. Obsessed with serial killers, he never wants to be one. Yet terrible impulses constantly tempt him.
Having grown up helping his mom at the family mortuary, dead bodies are no big deal to John. He likes them, actually. They don’t ask for the empathy he’s unable to offer. Perhaps that’s what gives him the clarity to recognize that something is frighteningly different about the freshest body on the slab.
For the first time, John must confront a danger outside his own mind, a threat he cannot control, a menace to everything and everyone he would love, if only he could.
I'd heard a lot about this book before I finally got the chance to read it. Dan Wells is close friends with Brandon Sanderson, one of my favourite authors, so many of my web searches often turned up interviews with Brandon Sanderson telling the world just how good an author Dan Wells is. This is not just lip service to help raise the profile of a friend, Wells is an incredibly talented author and his 2010 debut novel I Am Not A Serial Killer is one of the best, and creepiest, debut novel's I have ever read.
I Am Not A Serial Killer tells the story of John Wayne Cleaver, a 15 year old boy who lives and works with his mother at a mortuary and has been diagnosed with sociopathy. John has known that he isn't "normal" for a long time. He thinks about things much differently to others - everything and everyone is an object for him to figure out. The objects that fascinate him most are serial killers because deep down John knows that he is destined to become a serial killer and only by learning as much about them as possible can he avoid his fate.
The plot is not an overly complex one, a demonic serial killer starts picking off townspeople one by one and John, by tapping into his inner serial killer, is able to figure out who the serial killer is and what he needs to do to stop it. There are a few twists, turns, and shocks in there, but all in all the plot is just a framework for the real story of John, how he reacts to each situation, and how far he is willing to go eliminate this serial killer. The minimal complexity and Wells' poetic writing style allows the story to flow and allows the reader to focus on John and his inner workings. There are times where I think Wells goes a bit too far in depth and gets a bit too preoccupied with things like the technical details of how embalming works, but I guess it's in the nature of a serial killer (and John in particular) to become fixated on objects and processes. It is by no means out of character and I found a lot of it fascinating, but at times it slowed the story down when I really just wanted to get to the next scene.
John is a deeply flawed yet extremely capable young boy whose analytical mind is perfectly suited to finding the demonic serial killer that has started terrorising his neighbourhood. He has personified his serial killer tendencies as the monster inside of him, and his internal conflicts with that monster provide some of the most breathtaking, fascinating, and disturbing scenes I have ever read. And when I say disturbing I mean proper disturbing. The way he deconstructs a person's routine by obsessively stalking them, the way he fantasizes about hanging his bullies up in his basement on a meat hook while slowly tearing strips off them, the way he breaks out into massive smiles whilst analysing the dead bodies he is helping to embalm, I just felt... icky while reading it, and worried by how fascinating I found it. Despite all of this, John's constant fight to maintain control of his monster in the name of protecting his family and community allows us to empathise with him. There are worse things in books than killing characters, and the fear that John may lose control and become the monster himself is far more powerful than the fear of him being caught by the demon.
I Am Not A Serial Killer is a book that just works on so many levels. I was unprepared by how deeply engrossed I would become with the book, with only hard taps on my shoulder able to bring me out of this immersion. John is one of the most complex characters I have had the opportunity to explore and I can't wait to read the last two books in the series and get back into his head again.
This I Am Not A Serial Killer book review was written by Ryan Lawler
All reviews for: John Cleaver series
Have you read I Am Not A Serial Killer?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
I Am Not A Serial Killer reader reviews
9.3/10 from 1 reviews
There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
Victoria McQueen has an uncanny knack for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. When she rides her bicycle over the...
Fellside is a maximum security prison on the edge of the Yorkshire moors. It's not the kind of place you'd want to end up. But it's where Jess Moulson could be ...
Some doors are better left closed... In Barrington House, an upmarket block in London, there is an empty apartment. No one goes in, no one comes out. And it’s been th...
Cinema of Shadows
Welcome to the Woodfield Movie Palace. The night the Titanic sank, it opened for business... and its builder died in his chair. In the 1950s, there was a fire; a balcony fu...
The Pilo Family Circus
You have two days to pass your audition. You better pass it, feller. You’re joining the circus. Ain’t that the best news you ever got? Delivered by a trio of ps...
Four old university friends reunite for a hiking trip in the Scandinavian wilderness of the Arctic Circle. No longer young men, they have little left in common and tensions...
After the ruins of a vast, ancient civilization are discovered on the ocean floor, Coast Guard officers find a series of derelict ships drifting in the current-high-priced ...
The Temple of the Last Days. The brutal cult with a history of murder, sex and occult dealings destroyed itself during one night of ritualistic violence decades ago. Or so ...
Inside Out is the story of Denton, a down-and-out no-hoper who lives with his mother and hits rock bottom one day during a road-rage incident. What should be the lowest mom...
Devourer of Souls
Welcome to Clifton Heights, an average Adirondack town. It's nice enough, really. Except after dark. Or on cold winter days when you're all alone... Sophan. An anci...
Detective Gabi Versado has hunted down many monsters during her eight years in Homicide. She’s seen stupidity, corruption and just plain badness. But she’s neve...
Weirder Shadows Over Innsmouth
Respected horror anthologist Stephen Jones edits this collection of 17 stories inspired by the 20th century’s master of horror, H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Shad...
Black Wings of Cthulhu 4
Through his collaborations with today's most talented and acclaimed practitioners of Lovecraftian fiction, editor S. T. Joshi has made the Black Wings of Cthulhu series...
Under the Dome
On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day in Chester's Mill, Maine, the town is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force fi...
House of Small Shadows
Catherine’s last job ended badly. Corporate bullying at a top television production company saw her fired and forced to leave London, but she was determined to get he...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages:
Best of 2016
Fellside is a maximum security prison on the edge of the Yorkshire moors. It's not the kind of place you'd want to end up. But it's where Jess Moulson could be spe...
Thomas Olde Heuvelt
Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay until death. Whoever comes to stay, never leaves. Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the ...
Books of the Month
A selection of books - old and new alike - that were a joy to read.
Events are coming to a climax in the Banished Lands, as the war reaches new heights. King Nathair has taken control of the fortress at Drassil and three of the Seven Treasures are in his possession. And together with Calidus and his ally Queen Rhin, Nathair will do anything to obtain the remaining Treasures. With all seven under his command, he ...
For Kivrin Engle, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity's history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the four...
The Banished Lands are engulfed in war and chaos. The cunning Queen Rhin has conquered the west and High King Nathair has the cauldron, most powerful of the seven treasures...
The Creeping Shadow
Lucy has left Lockwood & Co. A freelance operative, she is hiring herself out to other agencies – agencies that might value her ever-improving skills. But now Loc...
The Burning Page
When it's your job to save the day - where do you start? Librarian spy Irene has standards to maintain, especially while on probation. And absconding from a mission via...
The Banished Lands are torn by war as the army of High King Nathair sweeps the realm challenging all who oppose his holy crusade. Allied with the manipulative Queen Rhin of...