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Killer Instinct

Review

Killer Instinct

Lane is planning on attending her dream college next year, she has siblings and parents whom she cares about deeply, she gets great grades and she volunteers after school; Lane is normal. Or is she? How normal can she be when she harbors a secret fascination with serial killers that she has carried with her whole life --- a fascination that has turned her into a rather emotionless, rational thinker with the urge to hunt down and harm these criminals in the name of justice? Lane thinks she knows where she got this from --- both her mother and her stepfather work for the FBI, and their job is to track and capture serial killers. Lane’s been exposed to it her whole life. But she knows she has darkness inside her, darkness that’s inexplicable yet undeniably insatiable.

When a young preschool teacher turns up dead with her head removed, news of a serial killer known as the Decapitator reveals that he has come to Lane’s hometown --- and he’s as ready to kill as he has been for almost 15 years. With the help of her genius computer hacker friend Reggie, Lane starts becoming involved with the case while taking care of other criminals on the side to feed her instinctual desires. But then the Decapitator contacts her directly, threatening her family and her new friend/flame Zach if she doesn’t do exactly as she says. Is Lane smart enough to take him down? And what happens when her family history, as dark, bloody and sinister as her secret urges, emerges and risks throwing her whole world into chaos? Will she falter? Or will she turn into the killer she has always suspected she’ll become?

Easily, the best element of KILLER INSTINCT is the tense pace and the consistently high stakes. I applaud author S.E. Green for never writing a dull moment into the story --- that’s not an easy task to achieve. There was never any fluff in the writing, either. I admire the pointed, concise style that delivered punches with each sentence; they were trimmed to say exactly what they needed to say. Even though her style is fitting for the genre, I think that her deliberate word choices and evident thoughtfulness is something that could be emulated by writers of any topic.

"KILLER INSTINCT is a fantastic entry into the teen “Dexter” subgenre. It rises above its competitors and presents a compelling story that will take readers on a hurtling, page-turning journey."

Though I did enjoy Lane as a character, I found myself finding her to be a bit inconsistent. If that was done on purpose, which I think it was, for the most part, then Green was successful in creating an unsteady, complex, human character. But I did have a problem with how many times the writing proclaimed that Lane was some kind of sociopath when she clearly wasn’t. There would be plenty of lines that would talk about her lack of emotions and her absence of expression, but that’s not exactly what I saw.

Outside of the moment where it was directly pointed out that she was abnormally showing emotions, I thought she was pretty emotional, especially in her relationships. She didn’t come across as some dark, twisted, empty soul who thought only in logic and rationale. It sometimes seemed the story couldn’t decide between making her into a sociopathic character to be feared and just a confused girl haunted and affected by her brutally messed up childhood. Her fascination with the blood and gore and death came across as forced sometimes, like the book was trying hard to make the audience think she was just as dark and twisted and bad as the people she hunted, and I didn’t think that.

While this inconsistency bothered me at a few points, I simultaneously kind of loved it because it kept her separate from the other YA/New Adult “Dexter” copycat books out there, which overtly present the protagonist as a sociopath or psychopath. Whether or not she intended for this, Green’s minor stumblings with character consistency actually turned out working in her favor because it made her story unique.

The only other issue I had with the book, and unfortunately this one doesn’t come with a positive caveat, was that the ending didn’t quite make sense to me. Why was that person the Decapitator? When the revealed killer was giving the required, “I’ve been found out, let me explain everything,” speech, they didn’t exactly give a solid reason for why they were a serial killer. We received an explanation for the first killing, but I wasn’t entirely sure why this person continued to kill, other than because of their relationship with their partner. It was an odd sensation --- I liked the twist, but I felt like I didn’t fully understand it. I would have liked a more clear explanation as to why the Decapitator continued their killing spree.

But despite those comments, I still think this was a fantastic entry into the teen “Dexter”subgenre. It rises above its competitors and presents a compelling story that will take readers on a hurtling, page-turning journey. As I’ve said throughout this review, I really do applaud Green for crafting such a solid novel --- it’s really impressive, and I am more than looking forward to the next entry. 

Reviewed by Corinne Fox on May 18, 2015

Killer Instinct
(Killer Instinct #1)
by S. E. Green