I don’t know how to rate this book because surprised Pikachu face isn’t a star value. I think I liked it in that it’s really well written, but damn if it isn’t scary as hell to read as a woman. Especially because Kepnes makes Joe, the narrator, too believably charming.
It’s so much easier to think of predators as someone you’d cross the street to avoid, but the creep who’s only a creep once you get to know him has got to be a lot more common, in the same way you’re more likely to be raped by someone you know. It logically makes more sense that people who do bad things aren’t obvious People Who Do Bad Things, or they’d be too isolated to find people to do bad things to.
As the novel is written from Joe’s perspective, Kepnes makes all of his actions sort of understandable – at least as understandable as they need to be for him to justify them to himself – so you kind of sympathize with him, less and less as the book progresses, but it’s there. This is basically a novel-length version of the scene in In Cold Blood where the killers run over the stray dog and it shocks the reader into realizing they should be empathizing more with the innocent family than the stray dog. Here you’re intermittently rooting for a monster and the author slowly reminds you how monstrous he is, and appropriately enough, it’s another minor detail that jars the reader into seeing past his posturing – our pretentious stalker loves the DaVinci Code once he stoops to reading it, tricked by his victim.
I don’t know that I like what that says about me, but four stars for a damn unsettling book.