Enigmatic Ink, January 2013
By guest reviewer Melanie Page
No matter how much or how little torture is shown in a movie, for the victim, it has to be never-ending. Real time freezes and torture time is the new reality. Places in Michael J. Seidlinger’s novel My Pet Serial Killer froze in time--but not for the victim--for the killer. The novel opens with college student Claire attending parties and going to clubs to find the perfect person. She emphasizes she’s an “observer,” lest we forget, which makes her seem extra creepy; she’s looking for the perfect boyfriend, right? Not true--Claire wants the perfect serial killer, one she can take home and call her own, her “pet.” Naturally, a pet needs a master, and Claire becomes just that to the man she finds, Victor.
Thanks to her major in forensics, Claire knows know to make her pet immortal in history, if only he’ll “satisfy” her, which doesn’t really have a definition other than making sure Victor tells her the flavor of each victim’s genitals. Claire supports the whole operation from her apartment, making sure her pet isn’t caught. The concept is unique, one that begs a reader to explore the book.
I applaud Seidlinger’s boldness to take on such a sensitive subject and get inside the head of a killer’s puppetmaster. There were some issues with pacing, though, making the book speed through areas that required more information and dragging in places that had been iterated and reiterated before. In twelve pages Claire finds her killer (if you don’t count the italicized sections that instruct reads to skip them if he/she wishes), but we learn so little about her. It’s unclear if she’s a graduate/undergraduate, who pays for her apartment, where are her friends/family. The simple logistic are fuzzy.
The italicized sections also made the story drag, being unclear about setting, character, and narrator (confusion between he/she/I/you). What do they each mean? Again, these sections ruminate on the observer/observed, master/pet, sex/violence. The last italicized section even functions as the audience; what did we think of the book (here it’s called a movie), and did any of it make sense? Did we hate or love it?
I think the best tool for Seidlinger’s novel would have been a firm editor who would cut unnecessary repetition. I wanted sections like this to move a whole lot faster:
“But see how I’m not really telling you the whole story? I’m not going to because leaving a
bit of it to mystery keeps everyone guessing. It turns a person’s mind into a powerful weapon. Guess all you want but you’re not going to figure it all out. And then you’re thinking maybe it’s impossible to figure out. Eventually you might give up, but the mystery never gives up on anyone.”
Could 100 pages been removed and we still get the same book? I think we would have had a stronger, more polished book. Even on the sentence level, a good editor would have corrected spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. I don’t typically point these things out, but they were distracting (“I walk from room to room a finger where it feels good”).
A brave take on an unusual subject, I could already see My Pet Serial Killer being used as a basis for the next Hollywood horror.
Bio: Melanie Page is a MFA graduate, adjunct instructor, and recent founder of Grab the Lapels, a site that only reviews books written by women (www.grabthelapels.weebly.com).