Truly Deeply Disturbed
By Andrew Nienaber
The narrator of this novella is, as the title suggests, truly and deeply disturbed. He is not, however, crazy. He possesses the ability of rational thought, even though he acts in ways that may sometimes seem to us, the reader, as greatly irrational. Although he occasionally goes by the name of Terry, he is reluctant to tell us his real name, but for our purposes, Terry is as good a name as any.
Terry is a serial killer. He's quick to point out that, although he may employ a knife, he is no brutal and disorganized slasher.
"I use a Lynne Sting when I kill with a knife. It's a beautiful piece of work: four-inch damask blade, perfectly balanced, giraffe bone handle. It's slim and sharp. I'm not Jason Voorhees; I do my work with finesse."
He also doesn't kill just anyone, though. His code of ethics allows him to murder only those who offend his sensibilities. In 1974, comic book writer Steve Gerber introduced the character of the Foolkiller to the world. To put it bluntly, Terry is the Douchebag Killer.
Do these people deserve to die for their douchebaggery? Probably not, no matter how often we wish it so. But Terry has no qualms with such actions, and when we first see him working, he's butchering some jackass for going through the express lane at the grocery store with too many items. We've all done it. And we've all been pissed off when somebody else does it.
On one of Terry's usual expeditions, he accidentally murders a man in front of a witness--a seven year old girl named Samantha, who is none too upset that the man in question is dead. In fact, she's THRILLED about it and immediately takes to the stranger in her house that she now considers her hero. Terry, a complex man, takes her in and instantly begins to think of her as his own daughter.
But with Samantha being listed as a missing person, raising her could prove a dangerous proposition. As if this wasn't plot enough, Terry (literally) runs into Julia Azuza, a reality show starlet who has made a lifestyle out of being hated, and she is drawn into his dark little world.
This is a very well-written book, and all of the characters are fairly well fleshed out and believable. Terry could very easily be turned into a franchise character, with at least a trilogy of books used to tell his story. Although I'm fairly sure that this isn't the author's intent with the character, I think it would have actually worked to his benefit if the Samantha storyline and the Azuza storyline had each been expanded, and told separately. It's just a lot going on in a mere 147 pages.
The similarities between Terry and Dexter Morgan (from the Showtime series and Jeff Lindsay novels) are unmistakable. Both are serial killers with a moral compass whose hobbies lead them into all sorts of wonky adventures. Could the literary landscape really support two such characters? I think so, especially if Nienaber did a little more to set his creation apart.
My only major qualm with the story is that never once did Terry ever seem in any danger. Sure, he had a problem that needed solved, but there was no doubt that he would solve it, and his personal future and well-being was never in question. He was never pursued, never hunted, never had to run and hide. Just a little more drama would have gone a long, long way.
Overall, a quick and enjoyable read. I would definitely check out more by the author, whether it was a continuation of this story or not.