The Killing Lessons by Saul Black
I was somewhat conflicted about what to write about Saul Black’s The Killing Lessons. On the one hand, I really liked the book, it was heart-pounding, agonizingly suspenseful, and very compelling. On the other hand, it also describes in great detail, the darkest most gruesome violence, inflicted mostly upon women, by two men psychologically twisted beyond repair. In order to balance this misogyny, Black utilizes three strong female characters which appear later in the book. This is the first suspense/thriller novel for Saul Black, who is the pseudonym for Glen Duncan, who has written many novels with more of a supernatural slant.
The book opens with a very domestic scene, which quickly explodes into violence as the two main deviants, apparently at random, choose an isolated Colorado home to break into and kill the mother and her son inside. However, the daughter Nell, escapes, and runs for her life through the snow covered woods behind her once safe home. The story then shifts from the cold snow covered woods of Colorado, to San Francisco, where Valarie Hart, 38-year old detective, has been obsessively working the seven previous murders that these criminals have committed, at the expense of everything and everyone else in her life. We are also introduced to Claudia, who is abducted and locked in a basement cage. Claudia refuses to give in to her fear even as she knows what may very well be in store for her. She is determined to so whatever she can to change her fate. The three main women characters race to resolve their scenarios-Valarie, to find the killers, Claudia to escape certain death and Nell to survive and escape the alpha killer returning to tie up loose ends.
Should you read this book? I wanted to read this book because quite a few of my favorite authors, Lee Child, Lisa Gardner, Lisa Unger, and Jeffery Deaver gave it positive reviews. It was also the first in a potential series and I always find that interesting. However, I have found of late, that the serial killer genre continues to get darker and darker-The Killing Lessons being an example of this escalation. That being said, the book has good characterizations (if you like the dark side of things), dialogue , pacing and of course lots of compulsive suspense. If serial killers don’t give you nightmares, then this one can teach you a lesson or two.