The Killing Lessons

Written by Saul Black

Review written by Adam Colclough

Adam Colclough lives and works in the West Midlands, he writes regularly for a number of websites, one day he will get round to writing a book for someone else to review.

The Killing Lessons
Orion Books
RRP: £12.99
Released: May 21, 2015

There's a killer on the loose, two killers in fact. A deadly duo the cops can't catch who will kill and kill again until they're stopped.

One winter's day they bring their mayhem to a remote Colorado township, setting in motion the train of events that will bring about their downfall. In the process a young girl and an old man who thought he'd given up on life will be pitched into a battle to survive as the weather closes in and a team of exhausted detectives will struggle against their own failings and animosities to reach the killer's last victim while she's still alive.

The above could be the ingredients for a satisfying, if not too challenging ride through territory that will be familiar to anyone who has ever read a serial killer novel. Actually its nothing of the sort, Saul Black takes the stuff of cliché and turns it into something remarkable.

This transformation rests, in part, on the strength of his characterization; Black writes about fully rounded, if far from perfect, human beings rather than one dimensional 'types.'

His killers are a pair of damaged and dysfunctional losers uneasily united by their shared inability to fit in, the tired stereotype of the genius gone bad is replaced by an evil that is all too convincingly banal. The police officers hunting them down are damaged by their experiences, a life spent find order in violent mayhem, rather than beset with the sort of problems the marketing department at the publisher says will give them an edge.

Black is at his best though when he writes about the impact of murder on the family and friends of the victims. The way ordinary lives are ripped apart in a moment by events that couldn't be foreseen and which defy understanding. This, surprisingly, is something the crime genre tends to either downplay or ignore entirely, encountering it here means you read this book for the feelings it stirs up as much as the thrills it efficiently delivers.

The line may be as tired as some of the clichés associated with the sub-genre, but just this once it might be true. If Saul Black is the future of the serial killer novel; then that future could be a whole lot more interesting that any of us expected.

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