Mr. Monster by Dan Wells
Review by Ryan Lawler
“My name is John Cleaver. I live in Clayton County, in a mortuary on the edge of town. I have a mother and a sister and an aunt. I’m sixteen years old. I like reading, cooking, and a girl named Brooke. I want to do what’s right, no matter what. I want to be a good person.
But that was only half of me.
My name is Mr. Monster. I show dozens of warning signs for serial killer behaviour, and I fantasize about violence and death. I’m more comfortable around corpses than people. I killed a demon, and every day I feel the need to kill again, like a bottomless pit in the centre of my soul.”
Time to dive back into the world of John Cleaver, the troubled young boy who has been diagnosed as a sociopath, has saved his town from a murderous demon, and has dreamed about slowly dissecting the girl across the street. It's no secret that I found I Am Not A Serial Killer one of the most fascinating books I have read in a long time, and I was very eager to see what Dan Wells had provided next. With Mr Monster, Wells has created a sequel that achieves the remarkable feat of outshining its predecessor in every single facet, and it is easily one of the best books I have ever read, and will probably ever read.
The story follows on almost immediately after the events of I Am Not A Serial Killer, with the FBI showing a very keen interest in John after his run in with the Clayton Killer. During the FBI investigation, a new serial killer starts piling up bodies throughout Clayton, and once again John takes it upon himself to find and dispose of the killer, believing wholeheartedly that this killer is another demon and only he has the skills to defeat it. This story is just perfectly balanced, using and maintaining equal parts of mystery, suspense, terror, anxiety, hope, and any other bunch of emotions you can name.. The pace is masterfully controlled, it feels like it mirrors John's emotions - when John is scared and doesn't know what is going on, the pace slows and slows while the suspense builds and builds, but when John is excited and knows exactly what his going on, the pace becomes slick and the action scenes become electric. The plot is fantastic, it reads like a 'whodunit' where Wells gives you all the evidence you need right up front to work out who the killer is, but because of all the brilliant red herrings the killer could plausibly be anyone. That is right up until one big scene where everything comes together all at once - you realise who the killer is and you kick yourself because you know that all the clues were there and if you had have paid attention you wouldn't have fallen for all the decoys. I just cannot speak highly enough about how good the plot and writing are for this book.
The thing is, the story isn't even the best part of this book. What I loved most of all was the way that Wells showed no remorse in putting John through the proverbial meat grinder. While there are a bunch of other characters in this story who are fully fleshed out with their own motivations and complexities (Brooke especially who has become one of my favourite characters), they just pale in comparison to John and the battle he wages with his inner demon Mr Monster for the entire book. John fights and fights - the tension is immense not because you fear John is going to die but because you fear that John is going to snap and let Mr Monster take control. And slight spoiler here, the best scene in this whole series comes about halfway through this book when John finally succumbs to Mr Monster and snaps, not with a whisper but with a massively disturbing bang. The scene is intense! The rest of the story is then about John fighting to take back control from Mr Monster, even though he feels so good having Mr Monster in charge. His realisation that he is becoming a monster is one thing, but his realisation that he enjoys nothing more than being the monster makes his fight to stay human so much more powerful.
Wells is such a visual writer, and some of the things he comes up makes you seriously wonder about his of mind. From embalming's gone wrong to graphic torture scenes and even the effortless way in which John stalks everyone his neighbourhood, the whole book oozes psychological terror. This is a book that makes disturbing scenes fascinating because they are told from the point of view of a character who actually finds these disturbing scenes fascinating. I flipping loved this book and the more I reflect on it the more I love it. I could not put it down, I could not find a fault with it, and I recommend it to anyone and everyone. Even if you don't like horror. My wife is not big fan of horror or urban fantasy, but she could not put this book down and could not stop raving to me about how much she loved every part of this book. I never thought I would give a book 10/10, but looking back I don't see how I could give this book any less. It is immensely entertaining, immensely challenging, and immensely satisfying.
Anthony from Sydney
It is a great book. I do prefer the third and first book over this one though, still a great book.
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