Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Review: Love in the Time of Serial Killers by Alicia Thompson

I am a sucker for a pithy title. I personally don't think of serial killers very often (I'm a coward) but my youngest child once admitted that he worried that a serial killer would come after him. His older sister, always sympathetic, asked him why it had to be a serial killer and reminded him that a plain old murderer would be enough because "they only have to kill you." It's a sentiment that I think that Phoebe Walsh, in Alicia Thompson's contemporary romance, Love in the Time of Serial Killers might appreciate.

Phoebe is trying to finish up her dissertation on true crime books and the way that they reflect the time and sensibilities of the era in which they were written. while she works on the final chapters, she is also trying to clean out her recently deceased father's house so it's ready to be put on the market. She has many conflicting feelings about his death, the house, and all of the baggage from her young life before and after her parents' divorce. Her younger brother, a sweet and goofy gamer, who stayed with their father while Phoebe went with their mother after the divorce, is supposed to be helping her but he's also distracted by finding the perfect way to propose to his long time girlfriend so Phoebe is going to do much of the work by herself. With all of this going on, is it any wonder that Phoebe is tired and suspicious when good looking Sam, the next door neighbor, materializes to help her unload her car when she first arrives. She's fairly certain he's a serial killer. Ok, only partly certain. Ok, not at all certain but maybe and who could blame her really, given what she knows about people and Sam in particular. Actually, Sam turns out to be a genuinely nice guy but will Phoebe be able to let down her guard for him?

Phoebe is over the top paranoid in the beginning of the story. Unfortunately, the fact that the novel is told in the first person from her point of view does not help this look quirky and charming. In fact, it's rather annoying. She's abrasive and prickly and rude, all of which is written off as plain old awkward instead of as what it actually is. Sam is a gentle, kind human being and there's no reason for him to be interested in Phoebe aside from the fact that the reader is told that he finds her intriguing. There are fun pop culture references scattered through the book and the strain of a hard and hurtful family background comes through very well. Clearly Phoebe needs to learn to trust and depend on others around her, despite all she knows about the worst of humanity from reading so much true crime. There are some fun scenes in the book and teases of more interesting side stories but the main plot just didn't get to the quirky and heartwarming it appears to have been aiming for. An interesting premise, overall it didn't quite deliver.

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