I’ve put together a short list of books I’ve read that use the killer as the narrator. It’s a technique that I’ve always found intriguing. As there are so many different mindsets that a person could be in when committing any crime, but especially murder, having a peek into such a mind is fascinating – even if it is ultimately fiction.
The first one I chose is Hyde by Daniel Levine. This is a reimagining of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde told from Hyde’s perspective. I found this one really interesting as it portrays Hyde in a much different light and calls into question Dr. Jekyll’s character. It’s all about who your narrator is, because you will likely lean towards believing your narrator unless you know for certain they are an unreliable narrator, which you may go into this story believing, but I would advise against that. I actually think that if you put these stories side by side, it gets much more interesting if you believe Hyde’s version of events. Is Hyde unreliable? Or is Jekyll? Decide for yourself! Whatever you ultimately believe to be the truth, this is still a fantastic read. A lot of books have come out that are reimaginings of old stories or fairy tales with modern twists, and some of them are very good, but I really enjoyed that this is simpler than that. This isn’t quite a new story based on an old one, but more like building off of the original and adding more layers to it. I highly recommend it, especially if you already love the Robert Louis Stevenson tale. If you haven’t read the original, I would recommend reading it first as the two seem to fit together almost like prosecution of Hyde versus his defense. You can really tell that Levine spent a lot of time reading and analyzing Stevenson’s story. It has the feel of a passion project which just makes it all the more special.
You can’t talk about psycho killer narrators in fiction without including Patrick Bateman. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis is the ultimate killer POV story. Here we see into the mind of a sociopath. A man obsessed with himself and maintaining his image. A man who can throw away a person’s life as easily as he could a scrap of paper. A man with a drive to kill. He knows this compulsion inside him makes him very different from everyone around him. He knows he shouldn’t act on it, but it’s apparently impossible to ignore. He’s a terrifying, heartless man, but what’s also horrible about Bateman’s story is how everyone around him ignores all of his seemingly obvious red flags. Or are they only obvious to us because we are in on the secret? Would we be able to tell if there was a Bateman in our life? I think that’s the question Ellis wanted us to ask.
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess is a classic in this genre. Alex, a 15-year-old sociopath, is the leader of a gang who take pleasure in random, violent mayhem. The gang goes on a crime spree at the beginning of the story including assault, robbery, and rape. The next night, they go out again to assault and rob an elderly woman. The police show up and the group abandons Alex to be arrested. He is charged with murder as the woman dies from her injuries. In jail and still causing trouble, Alex is chosen for a behavior modification treatment using aversion therapy. They inject Alex with nausea inducing drugs and force him to watch graphically violent films. The treatment does work, at least at first, but the question that is put forth by several characters whether such a treatment is a violation of a person’s free will. One such person being the husband of a woman raped by the group Alex led at the beginning of the story. Except the man doesn’t realize Alex was one of those boys, and once he finds out, that support is immediately revoked. Then the question is, regardless if it is a violation of free will, is it okay to take that choice away when that particular person will always choose violence?
The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard is about a killer reading a book written about him by the sole survivor of his murder spree. Only a child at the time, her whole family murdered while she hid in the bathroom, Eve Black is now a woman dedicated to finding and revealing the identity of the killer given the title “the nothing man” because he left nothing behind for investigators to link to him. Jim comes across her book at his job as a supermarket security guard and is beyond furious. He begins to read it not believing she could ever discover his identity, but he isn’t so sure anymore once he finishes reading. What began as a pleasant trip down memory lane as he relived his crimes through Eve’s meticulous cataloging of his victims turns into an anger at her for bringing the cases back into the light and panic at how close she seems to be to pushing him into that light with them. Which begs the question, what should he do about it? You’ll be racing through to the climax of the story which does not disappoint, full of suspense and surprises. I was hooked throughout, but things really start moving when he finishes the book and don’t slow down until you flip that last page. This is a very gripping and unique story. Eve’s book is so convincing, I almost forgot during her sections that this is in fact fiction. If you’re a fan of true crime, this is the book for you.