It sounded like it was going to be so good. The synopsis painted a picture of a psychological thriller where the serial killer chooses a victim, plans the murder and leaves clues to connect it all together. We know who the victim is and I was expecting a book full of twists and turns as the character and police try to figure out who the killer is before he kills again.
What The Killing Game, by Nancy Bush, turned out to be was not quite that.
The story meets Andi Wren following her husband’s tragic death, as she tries to take her place as the majority shareholder in the family company. She is trying to hold her ground while her brother-in-law tries convince her and his sister to do business with a pair of bully brother developers. When Andi finds a creepy note with a play on her last name, she hires ex-cop gone PI Luke Denton to do some investigating for her. Meanwhile, in town, the local police are investigating the discovery of various skeletons found in the basement of a local home. All these threads, though seeming unrelated (kind of, but not really), come together in the end.
My first issue was that by the second chapter or so, it was obvious that Andi Wren and Luke Denton were going to hook up. And it was equally obvious that they were going to wait at least half the book before doing it, even though it was full of the typical, “her thoughts involuntarily flitted to Luke” and “he found himself thinking of her, but after his last relationship, he knew it wasn’t a good idea to get involved.” (Not actual quotes, but, you get the gist of it.) So already in the very early stages of the book, I felt it belonged more in the category of romance, not fiction, regardless of the themes of murder.
Second, I would probably have passed up on reading the book had I known the killer wasn’t nearly as complex as I would have believed. What he really turned out to be was a whiny boy who discovered he got sexual satisfaction from killing (and from sex with dying women. Eww.). So instead of a smart, calculating killer, it was just gross. Sure, the final chapters revealed a plot that was much bigger than the first few chapters suggested, it was not that surprising of a revelation, and, frankly, made the most interesting part, the clues and plays on words, seem like a tacked on after thought to the whole scheme. It was supposed to be a psychological game, but it really was just one guy killing people while waiting for the right moment to go after his true victim.
Overall, I was just really disappointed in the story. I expected so much more out of it. Instead, I was reading wondering why I even bothered to finish it, since it wasn’t anything I truly wanted to read: the protagonist was a weepy female who needed a strong man to save her life and couldn’t feel safe alone, the antagonist was an extremely creepy guy who, had I known about before would have been a deal breaker for starting the book, and the whole point of the book was for Andi and Luke to get together.
I prefer romance to be a secondary theme element, which is why I generally avoid reading romance. And especially when you’ve got so much more potential, this book could have stood more solidly on the grounds of psychological thriller. I’ve gotta say, I would not recommend this book to many people, if any. It’s not trashy or wholesome enough for romance readers (or at least what I imagine to be romance readers), but it falls short on the suspense scale to be worth reading for people who enjoy mystery and mind games.