I Don't Want To Kill You by Dan Wells
Review by Ryan Lawler
John Wayne Cleaver has called a demon–literally called it on the phone–and challenged it to a fight. He’s faced two monsters already, barely escaping with his life, and now he’s done running; he’s taking the fight to them. As he wades through the town’s darkest secrets, searching for any sign of who the demon might be, one thing becomes all too clear: in a game of cat and mouse.
In I Am Not a Serial Killer we watched a budding sociopath break every rule he had to save his town from evil. In Mr. Monster we held our breath as he fought madly with himself, struggling to stay in control. Now John Wayne Cleaver has mastered his twisted talents and embraced his role as a killer of killers.I Don’t Want to Kill You brings his story to a thundering climax of suspicion, mayhem, and death.
It’s time to punish the guilty.
And in a town full of secrets, everyone is guilty of something.
I Don’t Want To Kill You is the third and final book in the John Cleaver series. After the awesome debut of I Am Not A Serial Killer and the sheer epicness that was Mr. Monster, this book had some mighty big boots to fill. In the end this book may have fallen just short of the level set by Mr. Monster, but it is still a brilliant book and a fitting a fitting end to the series.
I Don’t Want To Kill You starts a few months after the end of Mr. Monster. John is still feeling the affects from his battle with another demon, the loss of control to his inner demon, and the breakdown of his first ever relationship. But there is hope – he has thrown down the challenge to Nobody, leader of the demons, and he gets his answer when another serial killer starts to terrorise Clayton. The first demon was unprepared for John, the second demon underestimated John, but this third demon is pissed and she is desperate to make an example of John at the expense of his friends and family.
As he has done in the previous books, Wells takes a well constructed plot and applies liberal amounts of creepiness and suspense. This time around you get the distinct feeling that John is the one being hunted, the people being killed around him are getting closer and closer and it is very much a race against time to solve the mystery, unmask the killer, and save his own skin. The twists are big, the revelations are bigger, and bad things happen to good people. My wife cried but I am far more heartless than her.
This is all great material, but I think I was slightly let down by the lack of actual mystery elements, the lack of an the elaborate setup and all the red herrings that were so well done in the previous two books. It’s hard to go into much detail without spoiling the book, so while I found the concept and the physical form of the demon Nobody to be very cool, I felt slightly disappointed that the ‘big reveal’ of Nobody wasn’t all that big and was also a bit predictable. It may seem like a small thing, but the ‘big reveal’ was what made the first two books so good. It might be because I was expecting something similar to the first two books and was disappointed when that expectation wasn’t met.
As in the previous books, Wells demonstrates that his biggest strength is characterisation, and this is evidenced by the way we get to know so much about the support cast despite being limited to John’s point of view. John is a very observant and obsessive character and he provides a very detailed / creepy analysis of every character he interacts with, especially when wondering how he would feel when killing them. We get to see a John that is much more in control in this book, he is embracing his obsessive nature, and he is able to vent everything to Marci who is fascinated by the way he thinks. I loved Marci in this book, a lot more than I thought I would, and she played the ‘most desirable teenager in the cosmos’ role brilliantly.
The style, the pacing, the writing as before is absolutely brilliant. Wells is a gifted wordsmith, and at times this book is beautifully poetic in its prose. It seems weird, but it was an absolute pleasure to read about such dark and disturbing themes. I can’t say anything more about his writing, except that I expect Wells could take any concept whatsoever and write it in a way that would be appealing.
I Don’t Want To Kill You is a great conclusion to a brilliant debut series. The final demon was the most monstrous of all, the characters reached the end of their arcs, and it felt like series reached a natural conclusion despite the very tantalising thread Wells left for us in the final scene. I am very excited to see what the future holds for Dan Wells, and I hope that he returns to the world of John Cleaver in the not to distant future.
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