Book Review: The Killling Lessons by Saul Black

21301871Title: The Killing Lessons
Author: Saul Black
Genre: Thriller, Suspense
Age Group: Adult
Rating: 3 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by hte publisher in exchange for an honest review.

When the two strangers turn up at Rowena Cooper’s isolated Colorado farmhouse, she knows instantly that it’s the end of everything. For the two haunted and driven men, on the other hand, it’s just another stop on a long and bloody journey. And they still have many miles to go, and victims to sacrifice, before their work is done.

For San Francisco homicide detective Valerie Hart, their trail of corpses – women abducted, tortured and left with a seemingly random series of objects inside them – has brought her from obsession to the edge of physical and psychological destruction. And she’s losing hope of making a breakthrough before that happens.

But the slaughter at the Cooper farmhouse didn’t quite go according to plan. There was a survivor, Rowena’s 10-year-old daughter Nell, who now holds the key to the killings. Injured, half-frozen, terrified, Nell has only one place to go. And that place could be even more terrifying than what she’s running from.

In The Killing Lessons, detective Valerie Hart is on the trail of a serial killer, who leaves a series of corpses behind with seemingly random objects inside them. There’s no apparent connection, but Valerie is certain the same perpetrator is at work. Even though her social life suffers a lot from her career, and she’s obsessed with solving cases, even on the brink of destroying herself in order to save potential victims, she’s determined to catch this killer and put an end to him.

At the same time, a second storyline is going on, focused on Nell, a child who manages to escape from the farmhouse where aforementioned serial killer just butchered her mom and brother. Nell manages to hide in the woods, where she gets help from a stranger who lets her into his cabin. But with a snow storm raging overhead, and having a disability, he can’t be of much help to Nell, who wants nothing more than to go back and save her mom. But when the killer hears she might be still alive, he goes on a quest to find her…

I find the synopsis of the book slightly misleading. Based from “and that place could be even more terrifying than what she’s running from”, I thought the cabin she’d end up in would be the place where the real horror would start. Add in the title, and I thought maybe she’d run into an even more depraved serial killer, who would then teach her how to inflict damage upon the person who killed her mother. But alas, the cabin is anything but terrifying, and the man living inside is kind and generous, and although suffering from illness, he does everything he can to help Nell.

The book is fast-paced, for the most part. Valerie Hart, our detective, makes for an interesting character. She’s on the brink of being destroyed by her career, almost completely swallowed up by the cases she works on. While the connection between the objects and the murderer was quite clever, it always was quite predictable.

The writing is excellent, and parts of the book are truly horrifying. I thought the first half had the most impact – for the last part, I already figured how it would play out, so it didn’t have quite the punch at the beginning had. However, it’s still highly enjoyable, and if you love thrillers, you’ll like this one too. I would’ve rated it higher if I hadn’t found it so predictable.

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