Sunday, September 08, 2013

What Doesn't Kill Her by Max Allan Collins

What Doesn't Kill Her is a fresh and compelling spin on the serial killer trope. You know that immediately because the opening chapter is one of the best sustained pieces of suspense writing I've read in a long time.

The novel itself has a cast of characters who are fresh and engrossing from the start. The protagonist Jordan Rivera witnesses, at sixteen, the savage murders of her parents and her brother at the hands of a killer. He spares her life but with a bizarre request.

We next meet her in a mental hospital. Collins does an extraordinary job with creating a believable place where good people try to help  people whose lives have been devastated by violent crime. No hokey Madhouse stuff.

Another moving story point is that Jordan has not spoken in the decade she's been here. There's a powerful scene where confrontation with another patient gives her voice again. And then right after that
Jordan hears of a serial killer's crime that convinces her that the one who killed her family is still slaughtering people.

From here, Collins' gifts us with a twist that would make for a good movie. Jordan and her hospital inmates try to figure out how and where the killer is operating the Cleveland area here. They are joined in the effort by a boy Jordan not only knew but had a crush on in school. Now Mark Pryor in a homicide detective and they work together.

I read this in two sittings and enjoyed seeingMax Collins at his best. Not only is the story a page tuner but Jordan Rivera is one of Collins' most fascinating characters.

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