Trigger warning: Mention of rape (of a 12-year-old girl); infidelity; drinking; drug-use; suicide;
The best place to begin with this book is by noting that as it’s about a bunch of psychopaths (literally) you might think there are no likeable characters. And they obviously have their flaws, but at the same time, at least some of them you can see trying to be normal and understand more about their diagnosis and not use it in a negative way.
The book has a handful of points of view, but mostly we see things from Chloe’s, Charles’, or Andre’s perspective. One chapter is from Elena, one of the doctors running the program’s point of view, and there are a couple from the main doctor’s point of view, but other than that, it’s primarily the three students. And there are no chapters from the killer’s point of view, which is a refreshing change, I must say. It’s something I’ve noticed a lot of authors trying out in recent years, and while it can be good to see inside the villain’s head, it’s not always necessary, I think.
Let me just go ahead and get one pet peeve out of the way. There’s an infamous serial killer in the book from 20 years prior called the CRD. For those who are into true crime, I imagine he was meant to be analogous to BTK. When the first murder happens, there’s some talk tossed around about how it’s a copycat – CRD was in the same area all those years ago, and now it’s happening again. Except it’s not. Copycat killers are called that for a specific reason, i.e. they “copy” another’s M.O. That’s not what’s happening here. While Wikipedia notes that “A copycat crime is a criminal act that is modelled or inspired by a previous crime” it seems to be more often used when there’s a clear connection drawn to a previous criminal. The CRD moniker stands for “choke, rape, dismember” – in other words, it’s how he murdered all his victims. The first murder to happen in the present day is a vicious stabbing, not the CRD M.O. And the second one is even further from a straightforward killing. So why the author continually refers to these as copycats is puzzling to me. The links to what’s happening in present day and with CRD do seem tenuous at times, but there’s no need to try to push it by using “copycat” especially when it doesn’t seem to be the correct way to do it. The only things the two events have in common is that they’re happening in the same area, exactly 20 years apart. There’s another connection via one of the doctors in the program, which made sense, and so it seemed like the links were there without having to force it by trying to say the latest string of murders were “copycats”.
Aside from that very long-winded rant about incorrect usage of a term, I actually found this book really compelling. Chloe is set on murdering Will for a wrong he committed and you know you’re not supposed to root for her to be successful, but when you find out what he did, well, you might find it’s easier to see where Chloe is coming from.Charles is a rich kid with political dreams and a sweet girlfriend who mostly seems to try to understand his diagnosis rather than be afraid of him. You can see Charles trying, really trying, to cope with his diagnosis. He doesn’t always react correctly and he’s not great with emotions (trademarks of psychopathy from what I understand) but you can see he’s still putting forth an effort and he does care in some way. He does slip up but his girlfriend, Kristen, isn’t perfect either – after a night of him skipping dinner with her and her sister (he claims a migraine then says later he just didn’t want to go), Kristen point blank tells him that “every time you disappoint me, I love you a little less” and that was just painful to read. He’s not perfect, no one is, and he actually had a very good reason for skipping out on dinner. She never apologizes for that remark from what we see, and I found myself really annoyed with her over it.
Perhaps the most compelling character is Andre, though. After losing his older sister at a young age, he’s diagnosed with Conduct Disorder and later accepted into the same program the other psychopaths are in for study. Andre has a secret, though, and it made his side of things really interesting to read. I would say more, but I like to avoid spoiling things and this is well worth discovering the twists on your own.
All in all, this was a really interesting book, and even though the copycat thing bugged me, there’s a safe bet I’m going to end up reading this one again and again.
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