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I Don't Want To Kill You - By Dan Wells
Having already reviewed the first book and second books in Dan wells' John Cleaver series, I thought it only fitting to review the third after finally getting around reading it.
I was really looking forward to reading 'I Don't Want to Kill You' as I enjoyed the first two books so much. It took me a while to get there after, unusually for me, having a four month lay-off from reading due to health problems and other things getting in the way. It was nice to get back to reading again and the third book didn't disappoint me in the slightest.
The Premise and a brief re-cap of the first two books
I Am Not a Serial Killer
John Cleaver is a sixteen year old sociopath who, apart from being at school is a part time mortician and works with his mother and his auntie, who run their own mortuary.
He is a self-confessed 'serial killer waiting to happen', but, in his own words, he isn't one yet!
John follows a number of set rules to keep his own dark side at bay or locked inside. He calls this inner-self 'Mr Monster' and is trying his best to stop him from venting his rage on the unsuspecting locals, most of which he knows.
A serial killer with a difference is on the loose and John knows something about him that no one would ever believe or take seriously, so he has to take the matter into his own hands.
****spoiler alert - don't read if you don't want to know the story so far****
It's been five months since John killed someone. Nobody knows this apart from his mother, who finds it difficult to accept what she saw. For it was John that finally put an end to the 'Clayton Killer' and saved his small town from a menace that ripped its victims to shreds. 'It' being the correct way to describe the Clayton killer as he was a demon....a real monster.
Mr Monster wants to kill again and John is finding it increasingly hard to hold him back. Maybe his feelings for Brooke, a girl and friend that he hangs with will curb Mr Monster's anger and keep John in control; or will the urges become even stronger?
When people start to go missing and bodies start to show up all over town, the F.B.I become involved and John finds himself the centre of suspicion. Agent Forman is hot on his tail, but is it Mr Monster he seeks or has another demon arrived in town and what does the F.B.I already know about such demons?
I Don't Want to Kill You
A mysterious new demon and killer is killing prominent members of John's town and young girls are committing suicide on an all too regular basis. John has given the name 'Nobody' to the new demon and is in a race to stop his girlfriend and other girls he knows from doing what he knows is not an accident and definitely not suicide. Yes John has a girlfriend now and he is starting to feel emotions that he felt himself incapable of until now, but he can't stand on ceremony and love and feelings will have to wait as he tries to bring down the latest threat to his small American town.
The Author - Dan Wells
Dan Wells wrote these novels because one of his friends told him to 'shut up talking about serial killers and write a book about them instead'. So Dan did and The John Cleaver series was the brilliant outcome.
Dan gained a bachelor's degree in English from Brigham Young University where he was the editor of 'Leading Edge' magazine.
He now runs the website www.timewastersguide.com and writes fulltime.
In the acknowledgements to IAMNASK he starts with the line 'This book owes its existence to many people, many of whom are (to my knowledge) not serial killers.
I love that line. I also love the fact that he ensures his family and friends that the book is not autobiographical.
The John Cleaver Novels
I Am Not a Serial Killer - 2009
Mr Monster - 2010
I Don't Want to Kill You - 2011
I loved this book just as much, if not more, as the first and second novels in the series. Dan Wells has created a really memorable character in John Cleaver and it wouldn't surprise me at all to see a TV series or movie in the near future. I certainly hope so. Many will say that it is a copy of Dexter but although similarities can be drawn, the John Cleaver series can stand quite firmly on its own foundations. The only problem would be from a moralistic point of view as the books are aimed at teenagers and adults whereas a TV show might seem a little too close to edge in the fact that it would be portraying a teenager with sociopathic tendencies and an urge to kill.
As far as sequels go Mr Monster was not bad and certainly kept you on the edge of your seat. I Don't Want to Kill You takes it to the next step and Cleaver really begins to grow and develop as a character. Wells has that knack of keeping the pages turning and tells a fine yarn. As with the first books this one is aimed at older teenagers but I suspect that the majority of the cult following it has gained are fully certified adults; not that that makes a difference as I am forty-five going on twelve in the head.
I personally can't wait to read the fourth book in the series, and that twelve year old brain of mine is hoping that it will be out in time to get it for Christmas.
John Cleaver is a very complex out-there character but also very believable in that there is something in him that every one of us can relate too. He has foibles, weaknesses and is about as rational as you or I, which speaking for myself is a hard trait to carry in the world we are living in today. I think John Cleaver's struggle with himself and his way of dealing with it makes him one of the more original characters in modern fiction.
The story this time around is again far-fetched but that is what I love about it. A lot of people would complain 'That wouldn't happen in real life' but all I can say in answer to that is if you're after real life, then go to your local launderette and read a copy of Katie Price's biography and don't bother with fiction because it is steeped in unreality, but then surely that is the whole point of fiction after all. Thinking of Katie Price and the word real in the same sentence just doesn't go really does it? Apologies.
Wells writes effortlessly and it comes across in a relaxed manner and is not difficult to pick up. I'm not trying to belittle Wells' writing skill in anyway, in fact, far from it. I think his writing style is superb and as a story teller he certainly grabs your attention. If anything his writing has vastly improved in this second novel from the first and the third just reiterates that. The characters are certainly more defined in the third book and as I said, John is developing in more ways than one.
The plot runs along smoothly and John faces dilemma after dilemma. The end scenes are really well drawn and there are some disturbing scenes along with some black comedy.If you're after a book to get lost in, that is not complicated and not trying to be too clever, then the John Cleaver novels are worth picking up. I Don't Want to Kill You will definitely appeal to you if you have read the first two novels and I would definitely recommend it to those people without any hesitation and indeed to anyone who hasn't. If serial killers and fantasy is not your cup of tea though, then I suggest you stay away.
As an example, the other review on this book on this site has been read by someone who hasn't read the first two books and that makes it practically impossible to understand John as a character in the third book. Cleaver is a deep character and if you haven't read the first two books it would leave you feeling the character was too disjointed, but this is so not the case if you know his background from the previous novels. Why anyone would read a third book in a series without first reading the first two is beyond me; to complain about the third one after doing so is not really fair on the author or the characters and therefore the opinion is moot; in my opinion of course. I would also say, do your homework before you read a book to see if there are any prequels. Add to that the comment 'Hard to believe' (we're talking fiction here - as in not real) and I have to refrain from commenting as I find the statement glib and unfair to the author. It would be like reading 'The Return of the King and saying you didn't really feel that Hobbits were explained properly!I give I Don't Want to Kill You four out of five stars.
==Synopsis of the book:==
John Cleaver is no ordinary 16 year old boy. He has already killed two people but he is trying not to become a serial killer. As in the past he has killed Demons who were killing members of his community and by killing them he believes he has saved countless other people lives. That's how he sells it to himself anyway. In many ways he is a strange boy, he struggles with a lack of emotion and has few friends as he finds company difficult.
It is a new school year and to John's complete surprise he has just been asked out by a very popular and attractive girl called Marci. However, John is worried and believes a new Demon has arrived in town, because two in theory anyway, respectable members of society have been murdered. And not only have they been killed but they have been stabbed in the back many times and their hands and tongues have been removed. John quickly finds he has an ally in Marci as they seek to find and destroy this new threat to their society.
==My thoughts on this novel:==
To be honest this is a book I really struggled to complete for a number of reasons. And as a result I did not particularly enjoy it, but it did get better as it developed and while at times I felt like giving up on it I am glad I at least finished it. I feel now at least I can have an opinion as I saw the project through. I would describe it as a modern thriller though it could also be thought of as a Supernatural piece of fiction.
My first reason for struggling with this book was simple it was an author that I am unfamiliar with. As a rule I do not like an author I have not experienced before, as I find it takes a book or two for me to get used to their style of writing and understand how they think. Added to this Dan Wells our writer is American. I have nothing against America indeed I hope to visit one day, but I do struggle with authors from this country. I think in part it is the different culture, but it is also the difference in size of the place. I'm sure a holiday there would help me relate to some of this.
Dan Wells I had not heard of as a writer before I picked up this novel. In a blossoming writing career he has already written three books in the John Cleaver series. The book I selected was the third and latest of these being first published in 2011. Which again could to some extent explain why I did not enjoy this book. Any normal reader would have started with the first but I never work that way. My reasoning for this is the book should be self contained, it should tell a complete story within it and you should not feel that something in missing by not reading the previous ones. However I did not feel this and early in the story I felt I had missed important chunks of John's life and they were referred to quite regularly.
I bought this book because I wanted a thriller. Having read several Chic Lits recently I was keen to get back to my first love murder mysteries. Added to this in the past three years I have loved the Sookie Stackhouse Supernatural stories. So when I noticed that this deals with Demons I thought it would be an interesting and challenging read. Added to this I thought the title was very different and I was keen to understand exactly what the author was thinking with it. I checked out the summary which was short but it captured my imagination as never before have I read a story where the leading character as so openly said he doesn't want to kill you but he will if he has to.
The story started appropriately with a prologue. This was very useful and it explained why John Cleaver had killed two people. This was useful background if a little too brief. Although the first chapter I found totally bizarre. John was ringing young women in his community and putting the fear of god into them, saying he had seen they son or daughter for example walking home. I found this very creepy and I still don't understand why he was doing this.
However I started to get more into the story when I told of John's lonely school days with few friends. I liked the idea that he now had a sociable girlfriend and someone who was popular. O liked the way against the odds that she was interested in working with him to catch the killer that had already struck twice. Although I still struggled to really understand or relate to some of John's feelings and his lack of emotion.
I do not like gory murders and this was another reason why I struggled with this book. As the book was full of graphic detail of what had happened to the murdered people. Added to this John's Mum ran the towns Mortuary, so when John was not trying to hunt a killer down he was helping his Mother prepare the bodies for show to the families of the dead. It was too much for me especially as John was passionate in finding all the details he could about these dead people, it was far to graphic and detailed and frankly at times it made me feel sick.
Had it not been so graphic maybe I would have enjoyed what turned out to be quite an interesting story. As it was cleverly written and I could not see how he could possibly catch the Demon. And as in all good suspense thrillers the concluding chapters were very exciting and full of tension. It was a good finish, but did not make up for me for what I did not like about the book and as such I am convinced I will not read another in this series. Yes on the positive side there were some good and unexpected twists in the story but the gore really ruined things for me.
The lead character John Cleaver is probably the weirdest one I have ever read about. For me he was too weird. A sixteen year old who had already killed two Demons, was tracking down another yet still going to school was hard to swallow or believe in. He was just too extreme as a character and I struggled to relate to him and find I had much in common with him. To be honest I preferred those around him such as his Mum and his girlfriend, whose emotions where easier to understand and where more natural. Although it times I did enjoy his very dry sense of humour which added to what was a dark and unusual story.
The stories length was about right to tell this story. I enjoyed the detail the author employed when either setting the scene or sharing John's viewpoint. Yes a epilogue would have been good because a lot happened at the end of the story and I was curious what would happen a few weeks or months after it. But I suspect this series will carry on and so maybe for someone who going to read the series it is not necessary.
I would not recommend this piece of fiction. For me while the concept behind it was interesting it was hard to believe in and far to gory for me. Certainly if you do not like graphic killings do not read this, as it is some of the scenes made me feel sick. The story itself flowed well and I liked the way John tried to solve the mystery with his new girlfriend Marci.
Price: 517 New at Amazon
Year first published: 2011
Thanks for reading my review.
This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
© CPTDANIELS October 2012.
Summary: This book follows Demon hunter John Cleaver as he tries to uncover who is responsible for the macabre murders in his town. The story is hard to believe in and far too graphic accounts of the murder scenes and aftermath of it. This is the third part of a series and not a piece of fiction I particularly enjoyed and so I would not recommend it.