Review: Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell

June 3, 2014 Reviews 12 ★½

Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on April 1, 2014
Genres: Mystery/Thriller
Pages: 359
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Rule One—Nothing is right, nothing is wrong.
Rule Two—Be careful.
Rule Three—Fight using your legs whenever possible, because they’re the strongest part of your body. Your arms are the weakest.
Rule Four—Hit to kill. The first blow should be the last, if at all possible.
Rule Five—The letters are the law.

Kit takes her role as London’s notorious “Perfect Killer” seriously. The letters and cash that come to her via a secret mailbox are not a game; choosing who to kill is not an impulse decision. Every letter she receives begins with “Dear Killer,” and every time Kit murders, she leaves a letter with the dead body. Her moral nihilism and thus her murders are a way of life—the only way of life she has ever known.

But when a letter appears in the mailbox that will have the power to topple Kit’s convictions as perfectly as she commits her murders, she must make a decision: follow the only rules she has ever known, or challenge Rule One, and go from there.

Katherine Ewell’s Dear Killer is a sinister psychological thriller that explores the thin line between good and evil, and the messiness of that inevitable moment when life contradicts everything you believe.

This might be one of the hardest books I’ve ever had to rate, because on one hand, the plot is completely, thoroughly, and endlessly ludicrous, and it features one of the most distasteful (and not in a fun way) narrators I’ve ever come across.  On the other hand, once I picked it up, I also could not stop myself from turning the pages.  DNF’ing was never an option.  There might have been a bit of a “can’t turn away from this trainwreck” on my part, but I can’t deny that I gobbled this book down.  So, how does one rate a book like this?  I settled on 1.5 stars, but I wonder if that’s a bit low, considering that it WAS…readable.   But in the end, I could not get past all of the asinine implausibilities.  Let’s discuss a few:

  • The narrator, Kit, is a teenage serial killer.  She’s been getting away with murder for years, and she cannot stop telling us how awesome and wonderful she is at murdering.  It doesn’t help that the nickname assigned to her is The Perfect Killer.  However, everything we actually see from her is sloppy and careless and would doom her to getting caught, if this book had a lick of sense.
  • Through an improbable series of events, Kit befriends the police inspector who is tasked with hunting down The Perfect Killer.  Even more improbably, this cop immediately begins sharing confidential details of the case with Kit and taking her along to crime scenes.  Kit behaves very, very suspiciously, but the cop does not suspect a thing.
  • Kit chats with all of her victims before killing them, letting them know who she is and that they’re about to die.  Apparently, it never occurs to any of these people to scream, because Kit is always able to get away.
  • Kit goes on and on about never leaving DNA behind, because she is so clever, and yet, she kills her victims with her bare hands.  It’s hard enough to believe that this small girl could never lose a fight, especially since some of her victims are adult men, but doesn’t it seem like long battles, conducted with one’s hands, would be the MOST likely way to leave DNA behind?  It’s also surely among the most likely ways to cause a noisy disturbance.
  • When Kit starts to feel that the idiot cop may be suspecting her, she starts to carry someone’s DNA around in a bottle.  No, I don’t know what that means, and I don’t think the author does either, since that’s all the explanation we got.  Was she carrying semen?  Blood?  Skin scrapings?  And what exactly did she intend to do with it?  I don’t think science is very important in this story.

If that’s not enough you, I’m about to tell you about the mother of all implausibilities.  So, if you want to solicit Kit, here’s how you do it:  You write a detailed letter explaining who you want to kill and why, and you must provide the full name of your victim.  For instance, I might write a letter stating that I want to kill my husband, Albus Dumbledore, because he’s lazy and he snores.  I give plenty of details that make it clear that I am the one who solicited the murder.  I then place the letter in a crack in the wall of a cafe’s restroom, and then Kit will eventually visit the cafe to collect all of the letters.  It is never explained to us how hundreds (pr possibly thousands) of London residents are aware of this “mailbox,” even though the police have no clue.  Kit also leaves all of the letters with the dead bodies of those she kills, but the police don’t arrest anyone for solicitation of murder, even though every letter clearly identifies who requested it.  This is sheer ridiculousness piled on top of ludicrousness.

Even though I’ve given this book a low rating, I think I still want people to read it, if only because I’d love to hear from anyone who is able to overlook all of the nonsense and enjoy the book.

Note: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


12 Responses to “Review: Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell”

    • Stephanie

      The narrator is truly terrible, but not in any kind of interesting way.

  1. Christina (Ensconced in Lit)

    What a terrific review. I laughed from start to finish. I guess this was a play on the recent and popular Dexter. But in that show, I could tell why he got away with stuff. This just seems… totally sloppy. I can see why it was hard to rate it though because you had no problem finishing it, but man. Those are huge problems that are hard to overlook. Now I’m curious to get it just to be able to talk about it. I’ll probably get it from the library eventually. Thanks for your great review!
    Christina (Ensconced in Lit) recently posted…Review of Landline by Rainbow Rowell (and audio excerpt!)My Profile

    • Stephanie

      I still have not watched Dexter, but I suspect that he’s much more clever than dear Kit. This is a good library book – I certainly couldn’t encourage anyone to buy it!

  2. Pili

    Wow, sounds like I was right by staying well away from this one! Sounds like everything was so implausible and sloppy! I’m glad that despite all the inconsistencies at least you managed to read it!
    Thanks for the very honest review, Stephanie!
    Pili recently posted…Waiting On Wednesday #45!!My Profile

    • Stephanie

      This book almost had that “so bad it’s good” quality. It was a quick read, and it made me laugh, even though it shouldn’t have!

    • Stephanie

      LOL – I don’t remember that quote, but it fits in with the rest of the book. It doesn’t make sense!

    • Stephanie

      Oh, yeah, the synopsis sounds incredible. Someone surely earned their money for writing that!

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