Reviews In The Machine, I Kill In Peace by Hunter Shea
I Kill In Peace, by Hunter Shea is a powerful book, one of the more effective explorations I have seen of the twisted and deteriorating sanity and perspective of a chilling character. I don’t say this very often but this really was a book that I had a hard time putting down so I’m glad I was able to read it fairly quickly. The narrative was that compelling, feeding my need with each page to find out what was happening.
The premise of the book is that of a character being driven to commit murder. After being let go from his job, Peter starts to receive text messages from an anonymous source, instructing him on who he is to kill, providing the weapon and the opportunity to do it. This starts simply enough as revenge against the opportunistic boss who fires him and from there it just gets more extreme.
One of the more effective parts of this book was how Shea demonstrated exactly how Peter is driven to committing acts that most of us would consider unconscionable. I’m not normally the biggest fan of the first person but in this case I think that it is essential to trace his state of mind and why he is doing the things he is doing. Ironically enough, even in the midst of committing unforgivable crimes, you can’t help but feel just a little bit sorry for him, like he was caught up in circumstances more than anything else.
Peter himself is a solid character and the story built around him is effectively done. Shea does a good job putting him in a position that earns the sympathy of the reader. You really feel his stress at the prospects of having to support his family now that he is without a means of earning an income. Besides obvious external pressures to commit these crimes, you also see the internal stresses created by the situation he finds himself in.
As intriguing and mysterious as the story is, right out of the gate, it only proves to get even more disturbing as we witness not just Peter’s apparent transformation but that of the world around him as well. As the story progressed, I was totally absorbed with the events of this town and what could possibly be causing all of it. I’ll be completely honest, there was a part of me that was worried about whether or not he was going to be able to bring everything in for a conclusion that was going to make any sense. Too often with books like this, the author does an amazing job building up the universe of the story but isn’t able to figure out how to find a good exit point. Happily though, the book does find its way to a resolution that felt complete and satisfying, without going too far and over explaining.
One aspect of this book I really liked was how at times I was reminded of Bret Easton Ellis’ book, American Psycho, in the moments where you find yourself questioning the reliability and honesty of the narrator, whether what you see through Peter’s eyes is really happening, or if he is manufacturing them in his mind. Is the person leading Peter along actually there at the other end of the digital messages he receives? Or is it some kind of supernatural force using Peter like a pawn? I thought that Shea’s use of technology in the story worked really well and added new elements as Peter tries here and there to extricate himself from this anonymous character.
This book is not going to be for everyone. There are some graphic moments and the story takes a very dark turn, but while the book is undoubtedly disturbing in its content, there was no point where I felt like he was being gratuitous. The content that is there serves an essential purpose in detailing the progression of his state of mind throughout the book. In my opinion, I don’t think I could imagine it working as well as it does without it.
The book ends on a really strong note, going in a direction I can honestly say I would have never predicted. Shea sends us off powerfully, with an intensely emotional scene followed by an incredibly vivid visual as the book draws to a close. Overall, the book was extremely effective in its pacing and execution. If you’re up for some gritty, dark fiction give this one a look. It is what I think is the perfect length for horror fiction and it does more in a hundred or so pages than some books manage to do in over a thousand.