The Horror Honeys: Hardcover Honey's Book of the Week

Hardcover Honey's Book of the Week

The Killing Circle by Andrew Pyper 

Goodreads has totally changed my life, not least because the social networking aspect of it has given me an opportunity to connect with some of my favorite authors and find out what they are reading and enjoying.  Often, they alert me to books I never would have heard of otherwise.  Such was the case with The Killing Circle, which was highly rated by an author whose taste I trust, Kelly Braffet, author of the previously reviewed Save Yourself (go get it, it's amazing!!).

The Killing Circle focuses on a frustrated writer, Patrick Rush, a widower raising a young son in Toronto after the death of his wife several years prior.  Patrick works for the local newspaper as “The Couch Potato”, a truly ego-piercing name, reviewing the bottom of the barrel reality shows that populate our airwaves these days.  Patrick keeps telling himself if he had more time, he would sit down and write a novel, but he doesn't seem to have a story to tell, which leaves him feeling endlessly defeated.  As the book opens, Patrick has decided to join a writing circle, and this will prove to bring him the makings of a story indeed.

At the first meeting, we are introduced to Patrick's fellow aspiring novelists, including wealthy divorcee Petra, horror-lover Len,  subway conductor Ivan, tiny Angela, whose only memorable feature seems to be her small stature, Evelyn, a “deadpan pixie in a biker jacket”, Patrick himself, and William, a huge man who doesn't have much too say, who seems to specialize in looming, and who seems to make everybody else in the group uncomfortable. 

His interest is piqued at the group's second meeting, where Angela begins her story with a killer opening line - “There once was a girl who was haunted by a ghost” - she goes on to detail a young girl in foster care, who is pursued by a man she calls The Sandman, a “terrible man who does terrible things”.  Patrick isn't sidetracked by the other stories, as it's clear to him that Angela's shows more promise than anyone else's, especially his own.   As the circle meetings continue and the aspiring novelists read their work aloud to garner criticism and praise, Patrick grows increasingly agitated with his own inability to come up with a story of his own.

As the meetings progress, Patrick plays with a mini-tape-recorder in his pocket, listening later to his fellow writers as their stories continue.  Concurrently with Patrick's writing circle meetings, Toronto is experiencing an unusual spate of gruesome murders, as two people with no connection to each other come up missing and then dead – and not just dead, but hacked into tiny bits.  Patrick can't help but notice the similarities between these real-life crimes and the horrors that The Sandman is wreaking in Angela's story.  He also experiences feelings of being watched, and suspicious interactions during his evening walks and so on – could The Sandman be real?  If so, what does he want?  Has he come for Patrick's young son, Sam?  Patrick grows more and more unsure of what is real and what is imagined.

As the circle sessions come to a close, jealousy of his contemporaries has caused Patrick to sabotage his career.  And here the book veers off into a sort of Act Two, in which we jump-cut to four years later.  Patrick is suddenly a best-selling novelist.  You see, his book, The Sandman, has hit the publishing world with a bang, and it's all he can do to keep up with his adoring public.  How is it he came to steal Angela's story and present it as his own is something I will leave you to discover, but in any case, as we re-enter Patrick's life, it seems The Sandman has been called back into existence.  Members of Patrick's writing circle are getting back in touch after years apart – and let's just say that things aren't going well for most of them.  Certainly not as well as things have been going for Patrick.  When these voices from the past call out to Patrick, he is thrust again into the world of The Sandman, and even the reader isn't sure what is real and what's imagined.

The Killing Circle gave me a visceral sense of what it must be like to want to be a writer so badly but be unable to actually, you know, WRITE anything.  I felt sorry for Patrick even as he went off the rails.  And when his young son seems to become a target of The Sandman, I turned the pages as quickly as I could, wanting (yet not wanting) to reach the end of Patrick's story. 

Hardcover Honey verdict: Four out of five jealous novelists for this one.