Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell

"I kill on order. I am everyone's assassin. I belong to no one but the grim reaper herself."

It's something of an urban legend. If you have a person who you would like to be killed, write a letter and leave it in a hole in the women's washroom of a particular cafe. Don't forget to include payment. The more you pay, the more likely that the Perfect Killer will answer your request. The murder scene is always spotless, no fingerprints. The letter is left behind as a calling card. There are dozens of murders attributed to the Perfect Killer, and the police have no leads to the killer's identity.

The Perfect Killer is actually a high school girl named Kit. She has been trained to kill by her mother, who committed a good number of murders herself before passing the "tradition" on to Kit. Kit works hard to blend into the crowd, as you never suspect someone that you don't notice. It seems like a major misstep when her mother invites the young detective working on the Perfect Killer case over for dinner. It's even worse when Kit befriends Alex, actually giving him hints to her identity.

Kit receives a letter that has ramifications on her whole world. It is a request to kill a classmate, Maggie. Maggie used to hang out with a popular group, but has lately been on her own. The rumors are that she rejected one of the boys, Michael. He wrote the letter. In order to get close to Maggie, Kit befriends her. The girls are inseparable for months. Kit actually starts to like Maggie. She learns about the Michael situation. He is a horrible sociopath, and Kit can see the anger in his eyes. Before this, her world had been easy, black and white. Now there is so much gray.

I really liked the premise of Dear Killer. However, a lot of the forensic and judicial aspects seem suspicious. It seems unlikely that Kit wouldn't have been caught. There was some explanation for why the letter writers wouldn't be prosecuted, but I think that police could find something to charge them with. Then, a simple deal to find the "mailbox," a sting operation, and the Perfect Killer is off the streets. I'm not as familiar with British law (The book's set in London), so this all may be perfectly fine across the pond. I'll give the benefit of a doubt.

I felt bad for Alex. He just wanted to solve his case! Although, it was weird that he discussed classified information with a high school student. And, he let her examine a crime scene! Kit was a scary, scary girl, and the more you read, the scarier she gets. I'm talking split personality scary. You can't really root for her character. There is a little room for sympathy, because she is who her mother made her. However, Kit's actions condemn her. When she starts to question her life during the Maggie situation, the solution is to keep killing. You actually want her to get caught. Thankfully, there is a satisfying ending to the book. You just have to get through all the blood and moral ambiguity first.

I received my copy of Dear Killer from Edelweiss, courtesy of Katherine Tegen Books. It will be available for purchase April 1, 2014.

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