Book Review: The Killing Lessons by Saul Black


Book Review:   The Killing Lessons by Saul Black

The thriller/horror genre used to be one of my favourites — until I had children.  I just get too easily scared; thinking about what could happen, so I have avoided this type of book, movie, even real life news stories now and then, ever since.  But for some reason, I requested this book from net galley and well…   I’m still scared.

They often describe books as heart-pounding, and it’s very apt in this case.  The first few chapters especially had me so far on the edge of my seat I fell off in a sweating heap when the action finally steadied to a more manageable (just) level.  Yes, Black certainly ticked the ‘grabbing your attention’ box with Killing Lessons’s opening.

The next part of the book becomes quite police procedural, as our lead heroine/detective, Valerie Hart, is introduced.  Hart is the typically depicted detective.  Her personal life is in tatters, she drinks too much, she believes she doesn’t deserve happiness, and her only vision for the future is solving crimes.  The fact that Valerie is stereotypical but still fantastic is an example of Black’s obviously superior writing skills.

Black includes lots of characters, and usually swaps the chapters to their point of views, but it isn’t confusing or annoying.  In fact, it was one of my favourite things about the book. The characterisation is strong (and unique) with all of them.  It is also disturbing, especially when you’re practically inside the mind of the killers and/or their victims.

I would assume this book will be compared to Silence of the Lambs; there are many similarities, but the main one for me is the gutsy intelligent victim who is going to make the killer work for his death count.  I really enjoyed her scenes (I won’t say her name — spoilers!).

The way Valerie ‘solves the crime’ is believable and clever.  Knowing whodunnit doesn’t help much in this case, however, and in its final third, the book changes its pace and style again, to Valerie and other various police/agents trying to hunt down the killer before he kills another innocent.

Black really ramps up the action in the climactic scenes, with only one moment involving a helicopter giving me a pause of disbelief.  I will try and remember it is a work of fiction, however, and one of the best I’ve read in quite a while.  (Or worst, if my nerves are involved.)

I can’t wait for the sequel.   Or the filmed version.

I highly recommend this book.  5/5


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