Sunday, 14 March 2010
Review: Mr Monster by Dan Wells
John Wayne Cleaver has always known he has a dark side but he’s fought hard to oppress it and live a normal life – separating John from Mr Monster to survive. But after confronting and destroying the vicious killer that was terrorizing his town, his inner monster is getting stronger and harder to contain.
And now more bodies are being discovered...
With the police failing to catch Clayton County’s second serial killer John is going to have to use his secret knowledge of the first demon-killer to trap the second...but will he be able to avoid suspicion falling on him, and, in the face of extreme horrors, will he be able to restrain Mr Monster?
Those are the sounds of Dan Wells blowing just about every other YA horror novel out of the water with this, his sequel to the fantastic I Am Not A Serial Killer. In fact, the likes of Jeffery Deaver, James Patterson and Jack Kerley are no doubt already glancing nervously over their serial-killer-novel-writing shoulders for fear that Dan Wells is about to steal all of their glory.
Before purchasing I Am Not A Serial Killer for the school library I asked a few twitter friends whether it was suitable to be shelved in such an establishment. The resounding answer was a very definite "Yes!", but with the additional comment of "probably not suitable for younger readers". I decided that the only way to decide was to read it for myself, and I am very glad I did. What a thoroughly disturbing, yet totally enjoyable mind trip! It is the sort of book that will creep into the back of your mind during those moments between sleep and being awake, although not in a "is there a monster in the closet" kind of way, more a "is the quiet kid at school actually just a bit weird, or is he secretly fighting an inner battle against a primeval urge to kill" kind of way. So no... definitely not for younger readers, but horror loving teenagers will lap it up (although I am a little surprised that I haven't heard of a Daily Mail witch-burning campaign against Dan Wells).
The question on my lips, and those of every other person who enjoyed this first book so much, was would Mr Monster be able to match the outstanding quality of its predecessor? The answer? No it is most definitely not the equal of I Am Not A Serial Killer, this book is so good it leaves the first in the series languishing on the subs bench. It is a far darker, more brutal journey into John Wayne Cleaver's tormented mind as he deals with the frustrations of a dysfucntional family and his concerns about his growing relationship with Brooke - a girl he drives to school on a daily basis whilst at night he dreams of laying her out on a mortuary table in preparation for....... (I'll leave that to your imagination). On top of all this he is also being hounded by an FBI agent who has been hanging around town ever since the Clayton Killer last struck. Now that he has finally killed he is also fighting an even greater inner battle against the urge to relieve someone else of their final breath.
This book is probably the closest a YA book will ever get before being labelled adult fiction; as a result of the subject nature it has to be pretty nasty in places. The new killer in town doesn't just kill his victims, as John deduces during an embalming he tortures them for some time too. The author very cleverly teases you with morsels of descriptive writing, leaving your own imagination to fill in the rest of the gory details. Like I said - one hell of a mind trip! And what's more, Dan Wells brings the book to a deeply satisfying conclusion whilst simultaneously setting us up for the third book in the series with an expertise lacking in many long-established authors.
Mr Monster is available to buy right now. Thank you to the very generous people at Headline for sending me a copy to read - my lawyer will be in touch shortly regarding my nightmares! ;-)