Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Book Review: Dave Zeltserman, A Killer's Essence (2011)

Dave Zeltserman’s A Killer’s Essence put me in mind of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s notion of a Romance. In his preface to The House of the Seven Gables (1851), Hawthorne explained, “When a writer calls his work a Romance, it need hardly be observed that he wishes to claim a certain latitude, both as to its fashion and material, which he would not have felt himself entitled to assume had he professed to be writing a Novel. The latter form of composition is presumed to aim at a very minute fidelity, not merely to the possible, but to the probable and ordinary course of man's experience. The former—while, as a work of art, it must rigidly subject itself to laws, and while it sins unpardonably so far as it may swerve aside from the truth of the human heart—has fairly a right to present that truth under circumstances, to a great extent, of the writer's own choosing or creation. If he think fit, also, he may so manage his atmospherical medium as to bring out or mellow the lights and deepen and enrich the shadows of the picture. He will be wise, no doubt, to make a very moderate use of the privileges here stated, and, especially, to mingle the Marvelous rather as a slight, delicate, and evanescent flavor, than as any portion of the actual substance of the dish offered to the public.” At its core, A Killer’s Essence is a police procedural, which is to say, a Novel. In the Novel’s main plotline, NYC cop Stan Green grasps at threads to catch a serial killer. The evanescent flavor of the Marvelous is provided by Zachary Lynch, a witness to one of the killer’s crimes. Lynch is a semi-recluse with neurological damage that prevents him from seeing faces. Instead, he sees the essence of people’s souls, be they serial killers or cops. As always, Zeltserman gives readers what they expect from a crime novel—and then a little bit more. Grade: B

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