Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Thursday, January 23, 2014


What Doesn't Kill Her by Max Allan Collins (2013)

Max Allan Collins revs it up with his latest stand-alone thriller, What Doesn't Kill Her.

Jordan Rivera was sixteen when her parents and her brother were brutally murdered and she was brutally raped and force to pose for pictures with her dead family.  The killer told her she was kept alive so she could "tell" the killer's story.  Jordan refused to do that; in fact, Jordan just refused to speak at all.  For the next ten years, confined to a psychiatric institute, Jordan remained mute.  Then Jordan heard a news report about another family -- a father, mother, and daughter -- who had been slaughtered.  She then spoke her first words in ten years:  "What do I have to do to get the hell out of this place?"

As part of her release, Jordan was required to attend Victims of Violence, a self help group -- the only one of its kind in the city.  There she meets several "victims" whose stories are remarkably close to her own, those whose families have been murdered, leaving only one survivor.  Because some of these murders took place in different cities and because the murders differed in specific details, the possibility of a serial killer was not on the police radar.  But it was on Jordan's.

Jordan joins several members of her group -- including a best-selling thriller writer, a gay computer expert, and a woman whose sister and brother-in-law were killed in a supposed murder-suicide -- join forces to find a diabolical killer and to convince the police that such a killer exists.

Mark Pryor, a newly appointed detective, is one member of the police who believes that there is a serial killer out their.  Ten years ago he was a high school student with a crush on Jordan.  Her tragedy sent him on a quest, which eventually brought him to the city police department.  Mark has found a loose pattern of family killings across much of the country, convincing him that a single killer could be responsible.  But Mark is a rookie detective, most of the cases he has found are not in his jurisdiction, he is relying on gut instinct more than solid proof, and his department is stretched for funds and will not give him credence without some proof.

The killer of Jordan's family is still around, still deadly, and has some special plans for Jordan.

I've made no secret that Collins is one of my favorite writers.  A consummate professional, he always seems to deliver with strong plotting, rapid pacing, and characters you care about.  In What Doesn't Kill Her, he pushed beyond several standard tropes and kept me turning pages at a rapid pace.

This book is another winner.

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