The Serial Killer: An Eternal Bogeyman
It’s a guarantee that human history is littered with serial killers before the times of Jack the Ripper, but they have fallen through the cracks of our collective memory either because of lacklustre record-keeping practices, or perhaps more likely, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to care about a few murders with all the surviving our daily lives were dedicated to. The point is, we’ve only recently taken to studying such killers, trying to understand their reasoning and motivation, attempting to pin-point the factors that turned them into monsters.
For the most part, we’ve come to the conclusion that virtually anything can turn people into homicidal maniacs, from genetics to repressed childhood trauma to a hard hit on the skull. Trying to figure out what made a serial killer is really a big old lottery of semi-educated guesses, precisely the kind of gobbledegook nonsense Detective Matt Jones has no time or patience for; he’s more into actually catching them, one bullet at a time if necessary.
The Love Killings is the second book in the Detective Matt Jones series by Robert Ellis, and it follows in the same spirit as the previous one, with the flawed inspector going through hell and back to crack an unsolvable case buried beneath layers of smoke, mirrors and deception. Things begin rather slowly as they always do in these novels, with Jones recovering from a very unsuccessful assassination attempt on him. He wants to track down the hitman who did it and get even, but as is always the case with detectives, his plans are derailed by something slightly more important: a serial killer who murdered three co-eds in LA, Dr. George Baylor, seems to have done it again to a family outside of Philadelphia.
Robert Ellis’ Manhunt Masterpiece
And so the stage is set for an exciting manhunt, and up until that point The Love Killings is pretty much flawless. It goes along at a pace that allows for some character development without being so slow that it will put you to sleep. In these early pages we have the chance to become acquainted with the protagonist if we don’t know him from the previous books, as well as the kind of environment he lives in and the type of people surrounding him. Naturally there isn’t enough time for a whole biography, but Ellis skillfully builds up on what he already exposed in the previous book, helping us get closer and closer to Jones. He is far from being a faultless character, but in the end he does have a respectable moral code he tries to stick by. His flaws make him seem very human and at times rather vulnerable, which is something many authors fail to achieve; indeed, Ellis has found a way to make us worry for the main character, for even though he probably won’t outright die anytime soon, he can still have profound pain inflicted on him, physically as well as psychologically.
As the chase for Dr. George Baylor begins, the novel kicks into second gear and we switch to the fast lane. The focus is mostly placed on solving the case itself, and the atmosphere gets increasingly intense and frantic as we get closer to the end. Baylor makes for an engaging villain, having the brains and the brawn to match Jones as well as an intimidating presence in the story. Whether or not he’s present in a scene, we constantly feel how much everything revolves around him in the plot.
When we do see him, we are constantly aware of the horrors he can cause, and Ellis has done a marvelous job at making us worry for his fate, giving us enough reason to believe that he may very well evade capture once again. When the plot progresses to the point where he kills the second family (it happens not too long after Jones starts going after him, so no real spoilers here), it’s hard to stop reading as we want justice to be served to the terrifying doctor.
Once the book goes into full speed and Jones dedicates a hundred and ten percent of himself to getting Baylor we are treated to a non-stop roller coaster ride with its fair share of twists and turns. Now, I will admit that there were a few moments when the plot twists were rather predictable, perhaps even a bit cliched, but they were few and far in-between, with the more important moments being as surprising as you’d expect them to. Those weaker moments are forgettable as soon as they pass, and when looking at the big picture they are barely noticeable… and after all, virtually every murder mystery suffers from that, with us readers being such seasoned and experienced literary detectives by now.
Does the Book Deliver?
Robert Ellis definitely doesn’t meddle about with The Love Killings, aiming to offer a traditional and surprising murder mystery without any unnecessary bells or whistles. It’s one of the very few novels where you’ll find yourself actually concerned and wondering for what fates will ultimately befall the imperfect hero and the sinister villain. It’s a thriller of the highest quality that won’t let go of your attention, one that gives very high hopes for the future of the Detective Matt Jones series. If murder mysteries are your thing, then add The Love Killings to your collection: I guarantee you won’t regret it.
Robert Ellis is an American author who specializes in crime fiction after having made a career in film, television and advertising. His works of writing include the bestsellers Access to Power and The Dead Room.