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‘Beverly Kills:’ Book Review

The challenge with your main character being a murdering psychopath is all about giving your audience a reason to want to be in their head for a couple hundred pages without slitting their wrists.  You can do that by creating a small shelf of understanding for their throat-slitting tendencies, as in the case of the criminal-targeting Dexter.  Or by telling a sympathetic backstory, filled with the kind of traumatic abuse that shapes the very worst among us, such as *insert horror movie franchise villain here.*  In Beverly Kills, however, we get a straight-up serial killer worthy of American Psycho without any shading or excuses.

Beverly Kilbourne is beautiful, young, and full of promise.  She’s also been murdering people since she was eleven years old.  When we are introduced to her in the opening pages of the book, it is immediately clear that Beverly has long been past any kind of redemption.  She feels no connection to family or friends.  Her primary occupation is taking life, and all other pursuits – high school, cheerleading, parties, applying for college – are undertaken solely with the intent of creating a façade of normalcy.

The secondary cast of characters is generally unsympathetic in its own right.  Her father and mother are disconnected from their role as parents.  Her high school friends are vapid, self-obsessed, sex-crazed, substance-abusing teenagers.  As with Beverly herself, I felt a disconnect between really disliking them while simultaneously trying to muster up some compassion for their circumstances.

The exception to this is Anthony, the love interest.  One of the few truly likeable people in the story, the author thankfully gives a significant amount of narrative time to him.  Smart, nerdy, and socially awkward, Anthony is naturally head-over-heels in love with our knife-wielding psychopath.  The tension created by their burgeoning relationship provides the main hook of interest in the story.  Their mutual interaction provides Beverly with the only humanizing emotion she experiences over the course of the book.

Among the secondary characters, who primarily serve as Beverly’s victims, we have a parade of hapless men who range from innocent, hormone-driven teenagers to statutory-rapist teachers.  (There is a brief moment when Beverly experiences a righteous, revenge-driven rage toward this teacher who has victimized one of her friends.  This event comes close to being the only justifiable act Beverly commits but doesn’t quite cross that finish line.)  This isn’t to say that Beverly solely targets men.  She is an equal-opportunityslasher; however, she frequently uses her best assets – blonde hair, breasts, and sex, sex, sex – to lure her prey, so it’s no surprise that men are most commonly caught in her net.

The murder scenes themselves are well crafted and brutal.  Written with unsparing detail, these scenes are well paced and always shocking, which is an achievement given the frequency with which we are exposed to them.  The direct narrative of the story is peppered with Interludes in which the random nature of Beverly’s victims is highlighted in detached glory.

We are conditioned to extreme gore very early, however.  [MINOR SPOILER ALERT]  This requires that the climactic scene at the end of the book hit a volcanic level of blood splatter, achieved mostly through the sheer volume of victims, cherry picked from her closest circle of family and friends.  There were a number of truly shocking moments in this scene.  Even though I wasn’t surprised for the most part by Beverly’s choice in victims, I was surprised by the degree of pity I ended up feeling for some, if not all, of them.

I enjoyed Sean McDonough’s writing style.  His dialogue is easy on the ear.  His main characters are intelligent and not boring.  He achieves a romantic interest between the two main characters that is as believable as it can be when one of the partners is unable to form emotional attachments.  I enjoyed the dark tone and frequent morbid humor. I found myself intrigued by the possibilities for a continuing story.

I’m not sure how much these positive aspects mean, however, when weighed against the mounting distaste I have for Beverly’s body count.  At the end of the day, I think there will have to be some moralbalance introduced to her bloodlust . . . some small excuse for wanting to put myself in her head for a few more pages.


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