Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Friday, August 16, 2013


The Killer by "Chris North" (Ed Gorman) (1995)

Here's a short YA suspense novel that appeared in the mid-90s from HarperPaperbacks, which had been publishing YA suspense and horror novels such as the first Vampire Diary novels from L. J. Smith, the Vampire Twin books by Janice Harrell, and teen thrillers from M. C. Summer, Kate Daniel, Bebe Faas Rice...and movies such as Scream were on the immediate horizon.  In short, the market was there and the publishers were going to fill it.  Fast-moving, by-the-numbers books were what was required and the writers responded.

I don't know if Ed Gorman wrote any other YA thrillers (his wife, Carol, has written several interesting ones), but The Killer, while not transcending the genre, has a number of interesting things to recommend it.  The ins and outs of a small Midwest town and the lasting effects of jealousy and ambition, the silent caste system of the haves and the have-nots, sexual obsession that can start as early as the sixth grade and bloom horribly in later years, that each of us have both good and bad in us, as well as the power to save or be redeemed...all of these are fields that Gorman has mined in many of his works.

Karle Fletcher is a pretty high school student who has found herself in a social limbo since she has started dating Jordan Vedder, an asocial rebel who father is pushing him to go to West Point.  For weeks now, Karle has been getting disturbing and anonymous messages about Jordan.  Mike Conrad, football star and jealous bully, has it out for Jordan, as does a sadistic cop named Hennessy.

Karle stops by Jordan's house one evening to pick him up for a library study date only to fond his house in darkness.  She hears a noise from within the house and sees a figure in black running from the house.  The door, which should have been locked, was not.  Inside, Karle discovers the body of Jordan's father, a knife in his chest.  Behind a desk, bloodied, was Jordan; in the room was a video camera on which his father had taped a violent argument with his son earlier that day.  Jordan, fearing arrest, runs.  Loyal Karle follows.

Suddenly the two are the objects of a massive manhunt with Hennessey dogging their trail, hoping to be the one to find them so he can find an excuse to kill Jordan.  Can Karle and Jordan find the killer in time?

There are secrets, and twists and turns, and a surprise ending all tied up in a satisfying bow.  Gorman excels at nuanced characters and his talents are well on display here.  The Killer is not as polished as many of Ed Gorman's novels and short stories but it is a slam-bang novel designed to please its YA audience.

1 comment:

  1. I was YA director of a bookstore during the era when these thrillers were the hot thing. You've taken me back!