The Killing Circle (2008) – Andrew Pyper


I dove into another Andrew Pyper book, Lost Girls is still waiting for me, and I was a little unsure about this one to start. I mean, I like the idea, a widower, Patrick Rush, is raising his only son, Sam, his grief over his wife describing a personal pain, not unlike the protagonist in the previous Pyper novel I read, The Demonologist.

He’s a journalist, who longs to be a novelist, but is afraid he doesn’t have a story to tell. He joins a writers circle, and for the next few weeks, bluffs his way through it, while studying and listening to his fellows, particularly enraptured by a dark tale that one of the hopeful writers shares.

The darkness isn’t confined to the circle, there is a serial killer stalking the streets, leaving cryptic messages, and destroyed victims. Patrick soon finds himself being influenced by the story he’s heard, and reality and fantasy begin to blur, as the character, The Sandman, strikes at those around him, even stealing Sam from him.

There is a nightmare quality to Pyper’s writing that places the horrific in the everyday, making it all the more terrifying, as fears begin to take shape and present themselves to him…

Sounds dark, spooky and fun right? I was willing to give it a chance, though I was anxious about it being set in Toronto, I mean this is my town, nothing like that ever seems to happen here, so it seemed like a stretch, I thought perhaps I’d smirk at the references to my city.

killing circle

Instead, I was completely engrossed. I could see the places he alluded to, some of the locations subtly changed. But I got a genuine shiver, when I learned that Patrick and Sam lived just a few blocks from me. It actually brought the story home in a scarier way than I imagined. I would glance up their street as I passed it on the Queen streetcar, almost afraid, and almost excited to think that I would see the shadowy, hulking form of the Sandman standing in the middle of their road… now aware that I knew about him too.

Patrick as a character, is simply trying to hold his life together for the benefit of young Sam. Everything he is doing is to make sure Sam is ok, despite the fact that all he wants to do is just break down and forget everything, the pain over his wife, and the other things that happen to him through the course of the book – the police investigation as the bodies begin to pile up, the suspicion that he may be the killer, the impression of someone else in his house, and being under the eye of the Sandman…

The way Pyper walks the story between reality and nightmare, you never quite know where the line blurs until you realize you’ve already crossed it and are looking something truly terrifying in the face.

Alright Mr. Pyper, consider me a fan. I’m glad I have more of your books to get through.

andrew pyper



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