Review: Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell

April 4, 2014

Title: Dear Killer
Author: Katherine Ewell
Publication date: April 1, 2014
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins)
Genre: YA, Thriller
Source: Publisher (Edelweiss)
Amazon Goodreads | TBD
Rule One—Nothing is right, nothing is wrong.
Rule Two—Be careful.
Rule Three—Fight using your legs whenever possible, because they’re the strongest part of your body. Your arms are the weakest.
Rule Four—Hit to kill. The first blow should be the last, if at all possible.
Rule Five—The letters are the law.

Kit takes her role as London’s notorious “Perfect Killer” seriously. The letters and cash that come to her via a secret mailbox are not a game; choosing who to kill is not an impulse decision. Every letter she receives begins with “Dear Killer,” and every time Kit murders, she leaves a letter with the dead body. Her moral nihilism and thus her murders are a way of life—the only way of life she has ever known.

But when a letter appears in the mailbox that will have the power to topple Kit’s convictions as perfectly as she commits her murders, she must make a decision: follow the only rules she has ever known, or challenge Rule One, and go from there.

Katherine Ewell’s Dear Killer is a sinister psychological thriller that explores the thin line between good and evil, and the messiness of that inevitable moment when life contradicts everything you believe.
Obviously I've displeased someone high up in Book Wonderland, because all I've been getting this year are crappy books, and this is the only plausible explanation. But if I get started on my rage against the higher powers, I will never stop. So that's a topic for another day, when I'm not labouring under the load of my upcoming exams and stealing a few minutes of reprieve to write this review.

The short version:
Dear Killer is essentially a freaking genius idea, whose execution was not well done, hence ruining the entire thing. I regret reading it, and I dont say that for many books. I usually always have something that I come away with, but sadly, that did not happen this time around.

The long version:
Be warned: This review is going to be filled with all the absolutely incomprehensible things that this book expects us to accept, which, unfortunately for it, reside outside of the realm of believable fiction.

Okay, so obviously, this book did not work for me in the least. While reading, I tried to forgive the little things that irked me (probably just so I could finish the book and not give up), but now, in retrospect, I see that there were way too many things wrong with it for it to be a decent read.

Kit is a seventeen year old murderer - The Perfect Killer, named so because the police hasn't been able to catch her, even after seven years. Which places her at 9 during her first kill. She communicates with the people through a mailbox, the location of which every single person in London knows, except the police. Although people are horrified by the killings, they dont give her up because, hello, what if I want to get someone offed one day? Kit's mother, a blond beauty who started the family occupation, trained Kit since she was a kid, and then passed on the reins when she was 12. When she befriends the really young police officer who is in charge of the Perfect Killer case, it complicates things for Kit. Or well, that's what you'd think. But no, Kit and her mum practically toy with him all throughout the book.

There are so many things wrong with this book, I dont know where to start.

First of all, there's our lead - Kit.

Here's a piece of friendly advice:

You girl, need to understand that you are not a psychiatrist/psychologist, and dont need to psychoanalyze every single person you come face-to-face with. It's irritating, to say the least. I dont need a breakdown of every single thing you and everyone else does, because I have a brain in my head, and can actually understand people's actions, and in most cases, their motivations. I know, surprise!

Kit is NOT the Perfect Killer. She does not follow the basic rules that even the most amateurish murderers would know, her knowledge of forensics is childish at best (according to Kit, blood stains cant be detected on black carpet), she practically gives herself up to the police, she returns to the site of the murder, goes all viral in school after maintaining a low profile all her life... I'm stopping now. The point is, she just happens to live in a place where the people are incredibly unpricipled and the police are supremely idiotic, incapable of putting two and two together.

Then we have the secondary characters. I would love to know why a guy, and the officer in charge of her case at that, who is in his twenties, is projected as Kit's potential love interest. What, are we all so shallow now that a book without 'love' cannot hold our interest? Alex is the single most incompetent fictional police officer I have had the misfortune of encountering. And here I thought only Indian cinema policemen could be so clueless. I am not going to go into the inconsistencies of his character, because if I did, I doubt I'd ever stop, and I dont want to spoil anything for those of you who are going to read it (really?). Suffice it to say that I have no words to describe his gullibility. Kit's Mum is equally cold and fake and controlling and... and although sometimes she comes across as affectionate, for the most part she doesn't act like a mother. You get the point. None of them have a redeeming quality.

Usually, I find that when the characters in a book disappoint, the writing, atleast saves the book from total failure. This was not the case with Dear Killer. The narrative is long winding and pretentious, and filled with SO many plot holes. I dont think I've ever rolled my eyes so many time while reading. I also resorted to skipping whole paragraphs at times. What I was anticipating in Dear Killer was the psychological perspective to the killings: why she does it, any traumas in her past, etc. Sadly, Dear Killer does not deliver on this count either. The reasoning that the mother-daughter duo come up with is convoluted and doesn't hold up upon examination, because they themselves do not follow it! Argh!

The thing I hate to most about Dear Killer is how it seems to simple assume that it's readers are going to be mindless idiots who just gobble up anything they're presented with, without thinking about whether or not it all makes sense. Like it's own characters, in other words. Get a load of this: Kit leaves the letters behind as her calling card. Letters containing the name of the victim and the reason, and in almost every case, very obvious clues about who the writer is. But still the police finds nothing.

Side note: This is what I hate about Indian television serials. We. Are. Not. Idiots.

I cant end a review without saying one good word about the book, so here it is --> Dear Killer has a really unique setting and plot. I'll grant it that. I dont know if a book has been written about a teenage murderer, who kills on request, but I dont think there is (if there is one, let me know! I'd love to compare).  I also enjoyed reading the class discussions on moral nihilism and Kit's thoughts on that subject. They definitely provided food for thought. The one part of Kit that came across as genuine was her relationship with her father: stilted, hesitant, and silently begging for more affection. I do wish that aspect of the story had been explored further. So... yeah... that's the good part.

I wont tell you not to read this book. Tastes differ, and who knows, you might actually enjoy it! I know people have. It just wasn't the book for me (and many others). So all I'm saying is, proceed with caution.

Bottomline: Dear Killer, please just kill yourself and save us the trouble of doing it. Thank you.

The Book Nookery: This book is largely pointless. There is no psychology involved in these murders, the reason is absolutely stupid, and Kit’s justification of it makes her character inconsistent. 

Singing and Reading in The Rain: I realized that Dear Killer wasn’t about Kit’s killing spree, but rather her character development as a serial killer and her moral nihilism.

Katie's Book Blog: Reading about a teenage serial killer is something I can honestly say I’ve never done. It was fascinating to be inside Kit’s head. She didn’t see anything right or wrong about what she was doing.