Book Title: Serial Killer Z, Book 1
Author: Philip Harris
Publication Date: Oct. 5, 2017
Available On: Amazon as an eBook and as a paperback
Indie Athenaeum Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Marcus Black was a serial killer in the world before the zombie apocalypse. After the world went to hell and zombies began roaming the Earth, he’s been looking for a sanctuary he can be alone in. Trying to survive and keeping the darker side of his soul under control until he can feed it, he finds some solace in killing those who are the living dead. But it all changes when his sanctuary is found by a trio of people who are also looking for someplace safe to rest. His shadow side begins to grow restless at having to keep himself under control. As Lucy, Alex and Mike all get to know Marcus better, trust is something that proves to be hard earned. But when their survival is on the line, they all band together to fight the zombie enemy. Will they all survive the horrors of this new world?
As we get to know the setting, the world and Marcus himself, we begin to understand why Marcus behaves the way he does. We slowly get clues about how Marcus’ psyche works, what his skills are, what his life was like prior to the end of the world and how he views humanity. He views himself as doing good deeds with his murderous ways. These skewed justifications that Marcus makes paints a disturbing psychological portrait of a man in control of himself but letting his shadow side free, not because he wants to but because he has to.
Marcus is a fascinating character as a result, as it is the classic battle of man versus himself while also being a man versus his environment and versus his fellow humans as well. This duality of self generates genuine tension. It’s a masterful depiction of an unbalanced mind continually trying to protect his secrets in front of others and effectively demonstrates how this is a difficult tightrope to walk. How this affects his actions in trying to get other humans to get out of his life without showing his true self is the true core of Marcus’ struggles. And how those decisions lead to things flying wildly out of control while being around people who don’t quite trust him is when the book really shines.
Marcus’ selfishness in taking care of himself and his needs while trying to manipulate others out of his life and his camp is a particularly delicious dilemma. He knows he can’t take on three people at once and his conflict at trying to encourage them to leave while letting them live demonstrates complex characterization and excellent character building. And when his desire to help them is secretly rooted in trying to push them out of his life, he winds up in more dangerous situations than he could’ve ever imagined. The way Marcus’ actions cause more trouble than it’s worth is what impressed me the most with its plotting and its characters. The author’s depiction of an intelligent man making shrewd and calculated decisions is very multi-dimensional.
Marcus never deviates from who he is or how much he’s always keeping an eye out for himself. In this endeavor, he knows himself well, knows how to exert self-control and when to just let it loose. When he eventually does cut himself loose and his shadow side comes to the forefront, this is one of the most horrific and gruesome parts of the novel. This actually comes in second to all of the zombie killings we see in the novel and that is saying something.
The first third of the novel moves a little slow for a while as it establishes the setting and builds up the character. While the details and character building are interesting and held my attention, the novel really turns up the intensity factor and gets more exciting once we meet more people and the impact this has on Marcus and his darker side. By the time we reach the final third of the novel, the action unfolds in one harrowing and unpredictable scene after another as they all try to survive and gather supplies while dealing with hordes of zombies.
But there’s always casualties and the high stakes always make you feel like your life is on the line just like those in the story. The finale itself is one hell of a ride as the unthinkable happens and Marcus has to improvise when he’s no longer able to manipulate the situation to his advantage. With his back against the wall, his uncaged viciousness is a disturbing and grotesque sight to see.
A note about the setting, as the majority of this novel takes place in the wilderness. I read a lot of this book while camping out in the woods and the author does such a superb job setting the table and providing such authentic details to his descriptions, it gave me the shivers to think of a zombie roaming out of the woods and attacking me. It added such ambiance to an already well-written story and augmented it to the point that it personally creeped me out that much more.
I’ve read many novels and short stories by this author in the past and was intrigued by the premise. But his previous stories have always been imaginative and well told so reading this was a no-brainer. It proves to be a remarkable premise and a refreshing way to look at the end of the world. How a serial killer not only functions in it but thrive on the chaos and lawlessness that reigns is very much an extraordinary tale that took me on a crazy thrill ride. The action scenes are flawless and the Marcus’ struggle against himself makes for a rousing psychological depiction of a man with no moral boundaries and careful self-control. This is the first in a series of novels about a serial killer in the zombie apocalypse and I look forward to seeing what the author does with the premise and with Marcus next.
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