Synopsis: William Wiles is an easy-going thirty-something, a bartender who lives a quiet life alone until a serial killer singles him out – not to kill him, but to force him to decide who the next victim will be.
On his SUV Billy finds the first note: ‘If you don’t take this note to the police and get them involved, I will kill a lovely blonde schoolteacher. If you do take this note to the police, I will instead kill an elderly woman active in charity work. You have four hours to decide. The choice is yours.’
Billy pays an informal visit to an acquaintance, Lanny Olson, who is a policeman, and who thinks the note is a prank. The schoolteacher dies. The next note reverses the choices: if Billy takes the note to the police, a mother of two young children will die. If he doesn’t, an unmarried man who won’t be much missed will die. Lanny has to take this note seriously but the deadline runs out before he can decide how to make his involvement official. not be much missed, has become the next victim.
There will be more communications from the killer, more hideous choices, with ever tighter decision times, and with each choice Billy is drawn deeper into an accelerating nightmare, which steadily becomes more personal, more confrontational, until he is isolated, with no one to turn to and no one to rely on but himself.
Finally he must risk everything to save the intended victims…
My thoughts: I picked this book up after spotting it at a second hand book store. I was drawn in after seeing the cover (and reading the blurb), because it seemed like a really interesting and unique kind of story. I have to admint I was disappointed with this book and I think it’s because my expectations were set at the level of Koontz’s “Intensity”, which is one of the best thrillers I’ve ever read. This was more of a slow burn, and there certainly weren’t any heart-pounding-with-excitement moments at any stage of the story.
The main character made so many stupid decisions it was really hard to sympathise with him when everything went wrong. I’m usually not too bad with stories where I don’t really care about (or actually dislike) the main character, but I struggled with this book. I just didn’t care what happened to old Billy Wiles.
This book really started to drag around the halfway point, and I felt like I was dreading picking it up every time I decided I would read a bit more. The big reveal of the killer was a huge letdown for me, it felt really anticlimactic. I prefer stories where we get to know the killer, and their story is fleshed out through the book, rather than just a chapter or so tacked on towards the end.
I’d go so far as to say skip this book, and pick up Dean Koontz’s ‘Intensity’ instead, which to me is a far superior thriller, and an actually enjoyable read.