The Unbearable Gloominess of Serial Killers

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Are you presently in the manic phase of manic-depression?  Or maybe, incurably optimistic and annoyingly cheerful?  In either case, the solution to your problem is as close as the nearest copy of Michael Marshall’s, “The Upright Man”, published in 2004.

Anybody old enough to read thrillers is familiar with the concept, “life is hard, and then you die,”  so you might think that there’s no need to relentlessly beat us over the head with it in the course of 360 pages.  Marshall obviously thinks otherwise; that this is a thought that cannot be repeated too often, or illustrated in too many depressing ways.

This isn’t a complaint about Marshall’s style, gloomy as it is.  I have no one to blame but myself, for picking up a thriller about serial killers.  How pleasant could it be?  The cheeriest thing about Marshall’s story is that the implausibility peaks along with the gloom and doom.  There’s not just one serial killer, but a whole community of them who have infiltrated all levels of American society, dating from the first settlement of the country by Europeans.  This idea is more peculiar than scary.  Even more peculiar is the off-hand suggestion that Bigfoot may be prowling the forbidding woods of the northwest United States.

There are plenty of thrillers about espionage, politics, or “normal” criminals, but finding the type of murder mystery I enjoy is more of a challenge.  If I stay away from serial killers (almost always too gory) and so-called “cozy mysteries (what could be more irritating than women who are always baking cookies and being lovably eccentric?) I’m left more-or-less with Agatha Christie, and she’s not writing any more.

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