Serial killers are one of the staples of crime fiction. We’re morbidly fascinated by real serial killers; their lives get made into movies (Ted Bundy, Aileen Wuornos) and bestselling books. So it’s natural that the fascination would carry over into fiction.
I read two books over the weekend about fictional serial killers. The first was Patricia Cornwell’s latest, The Bone Bed. It features forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta. This was the first Cornwell book I’d read in a while. The Scarpetta series had gotten so dark that it was no longer enjoyable to me. The mysteries were excellently crafted, but the books were just too darn depressing. So I left off for a while. I decided to give Scarpetta another try when The Bone Bed arrived at the library where I work and I had first dibs.
Well, it’s still dark. Scarpetta is located in Boston now, and it’s cold and raining all the time, and she still has dysfunctional relationships with almost everyone in her life, and spends a lot of time in the book worrying about what other people are thinking. The actual plot is excellent, but the book could have been shorter and tighter if Scarpetta hadn’t been doubting herself and everyone around her at every turn. And ruminating on that for pages and pages. For a woman in such a high-powered position, she has the emotional makeup of a high school kid. In my opinion.
The second serial killer book I read was Murder in Mykonos: An Inspector Kaldis Mystery by Jeffrey Siger. It was a freebie on Kindle, and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s very well written. It still involves a serial killer, so there is still darkness and angst, but it takes place in the sunshine of a Greek island. And some of the characters have sunny dispositions. There was much more focus on solving the crimes and much less on the internal dialogues of the main characters. But the personalities of each of the characters are nicely drawn out; it’s just that they don’t spend pages and pages obsessing about what everyone around them is thinking. It was a much more enjoyable read. I see that there are other Inspector Kaldis mysteries available, so I may check some of them out.
Would I ever write a mystery with a serial killer? I don’t know. My protagonist’s boyfriend is a professor of psychology, with a specialty in abnormal and criminal psychology, so I guess it would be possible to work it in. But I don’t have any plans for it right now.