BOOK: The Killing Circle by Andrew Pyper (2009)

Patrick Rush is a single father who was recently demoted at his newspaper job from well-respected book reviewer to writer of a frivolous column called “The Couch Potato,” all about painfully inane reality TV shows with exclamatory names like, Falling From Buildings! and Animals That Kill!

Miserable at work, and grieving the still-fresh death of his wife, he decides it’s time he look into pursuing one of the goals of his youth — writing a novel.  To that end, he joins a writing group he sees advertised in the local paper.  Each group member spends a week writing something — anything — and then they meet to read their work aloud and get feedback from the others.  After a few weeks spent struggling to get even the most banal prose down on paper, though, Patrick decides his life just hasn’t been interesting enough. He has nothing to say, because nothing has ever happened to him.  The old adage “write what you know” only works if you know something, he decides.

Thankfully, nobody else in the group is producing anything good either, so Patrick continues to coast through each meeting, mostly hanging around out of curiosity for his fellow failed would-bes.

Then he hears chapter one of Angela’s story, and everything begins to shift.

Angela is a young, pretty woman whose story is strange, scary, and engrossing.  It’s about a little girl stalked by a killer she describes only as “a terrible man who does terrible things,” and later dubs “the Sandman.”  As Angela tells more and more of the tale, Patrick notices  parallels between what she’s writing and recent crimes reported in the news.  Just as he’s begun to suspect her story is more autobiographical than fictitious, members of the group start disappearing — some found dead, others simply vanishing into thin air.  Patrick, obsessed with both Angela and the Sandman, becomes convinced one of the group’s members, a big, ugly guy who writes disturbing stories about killing animals, is the Sandman, and when someone starts following him and then Angela herself disappears, Patrick realizes his life has not only gotten interesting enough to turn into a book, the book it’s turned into is “a bloody page-turner.”

This is a pretty entertaining little thriller, with an interesting running theme about the nature of stories and storytelling.  By the end of the novel, it’s hard to tell how much of the story we’re hearing, narrated by Patrick, is actually true, and how much is simply a fictionalized version of his life — not necessarily fictionalized on purpose.  This is a common issue with memoirs, after all; no memoir is ever pure truth, right?  Can we ever look at our life objectively enough to report only facts?  And, maybe more importantly, should we even try?

The writing here isn’t anything special — it’s well-enough crafted but not stand-out —  but the story was suspenseful enough to make me want to look for more by the author.  (Anybody read anything else by Pyper?)  Definitely recommended if you’re in the mood for a dark little mystery.


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3 Responses to “BOOK: The Killing Circle by Andrew Pyper (2009)”

  1. RogerBW Says:

    I’m always edgy regarding novels about novelists, particularly first novels about first novelists. (Which this doesn’t appear to be, I should say.) Sounds as though this manages to break the mould, though.

  2. megwood Says:

    This is a novel about a failed novelist who steals a novel from someone else. Does that help?

    And no, this isn’t Pyper’s first book. First one I’ve read, though.

    “Mould”! You Brits are so cute with that “silent u” thing you do!

  3. Liz Says:

    Hey! Not just Brits! I do it all the time – colour, favour, other-ones-I-can’t-think-of-now … even theatre – much to the consternation of my spell-checker.

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