Fictional JFK theory beats the real ones
TIn I Don’t Want to Kill You (Tor, 334 pages, $10), by American novelist Dan Wells, teenage sociopath John Wayne Cleaver is having a tough time of it. Not only is he struggling with his own destiny — he’s convinced he’s fated to become a serial killer, even though he doesn’t really want to — but he’s also trying to fight a murderous evil that manifests itself in human form. A budding serial killer squaring off against a supernatural serial killer, you might say. Like its predecessors, I Am Not a Serial Killer and Mr. Monster, this is a very entertaining, very well-written book. Cleaver, whose name conjures up both images of serial killers (John Wayne Gacy) and of an idealized America in which evil doesn’t exist (the world of Beaver Cleaver), is a likable narrator, despite the darkness that is bubbling to the surface.
It’s not, perhaps, for all tastes. If you don’t like books about kids who kill, this might not be for you. If you’re a horror fan, on the other hand, dive right in. If you’re a fan of the TV series Mad Men, you should probably check out John Kenney’s funny and charming novel Truth in Advertising (Touchstone, 310 pages, $17). Kenney, a veteran ad copywriter who lives in Brooklyn, tells the story of Fin Dolan, a commercial writer for a Madison Avenue ad agency, who’s handed an assignment that’s almost doomed to fail: a Super Bowl commercial for a new kind of diaper. As Fin tries desperately to turn a crappy assignment into something that isn’t totally awful, he is also forced to confront some bad memories from his own past. And, surprisingly, somewhere in the middle of all that he rediscovers the things he used to like about himself. HIS month marks the 50th anniversary of the murder of John F. Kennedy. There are hundreds of books about the assassination, but Maryland’s Stephen Hunter proves there’s room for one more. In the thriller The Third Bullet (Pocket Books, 551 pages, $13), former U.S. Marine sniper Bob Lee Swagger is approached by a woman who claims her husband, a novelist investigating the JFK assassination, was murdered. Bob is reluctant to look into it, until a small detail in the woman’s story tweaks his interest… and sends him in search of the real killer of the American president. Hunter, via Swagger, takes a ballistic approach, beginning with the weaponry (the how, not the who or the why), creating a new conspiracy theory that answers a lot of niggling little questions that other theories overlook or skate over. Hunter’s theory is completely fictional, of course, but it makes more sense than many theories that claim to be based in reality. And if you’re not especially interested in the JFK murder, it’s also a top-notch Swagger novel, too, one of the best in the series. Novelist Ben Blaine is dead. His estranged son Adam, a CIA agent, comes home to Martha’s Vineyard to execute the will. When he encounters something that makes no sense to him — why would his father disinherit one of his own sons? — Adam starts digging, and uncovers some dark secrets about his own family. Fall from Grace (Pocket Books, 367 pages, $11) is a bit of a change of pace for Richard North Patterson, who’s known mostly for thrillers with political overtones. This novel is more of a straightforward murder mystery, smaller in scope than many of Patterson’s actioners, with more vividly realized characters and a deeper emotional core. The story is set in the author’s own backyard — Patterson lives part of the year in Martha’s Vineyard — and this lends the book a realistic, familiar feel that is sometimes missing from his thrillers. Halifax freelancer David Pitt’s column runs on the first weekend of the month.