Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
The Killer Inside Me: Jim Thompson, September 21—25, 2016
My rating: ♦♦♦◊◊
Jim Thompson has arguably turned literature on its head with his 1952 novel, narrated by murdering deputy sheriff Lou Ford.
Lou regularly cheats on his girlfriend Amy with a prostitute named Joyce, in an effort to purge his sadomasochistic tendencies which he refers to as “the sickness“. However, his compulsions escalate into cold-blooded murder, and Lou attempts to conceal both his crimes and nature from his colleagues and fellow townsmen.
Lou is neither sympathetic nor antagonistic and it’s that which makes The Killer Inside Me unforgivably bland. He’s not a good guy gone bad that you find yourself rooting for, but neither does he embody the psychosis of Patrick Bateman. He doesn’t really do anything. His greatest strength is his backstory, which is a solid 6-and-a-half out of ten in terms of interest and consequence.
Without connecting to any of the characters, it all falls to the plot to keep you standing. County district attorney Howard Hendricks has suspicions about Ford from the get-go. He can’t go after Ford without significant evidence, and the intellectual sparring between Hendricks and Ford is one of the most interesting elements of the book. It’s a game of chicken that Sheriff Bob Maples tries to avoid getting involved in.
Despite building some tension and covert suspicion, the changes in situation are abrupt and, for the most part, quite unexplained. Ford needs to be badder, and his colleagues more subtle. It’s a disappointing read that would be much improved with some colour and grit that is sadly lacking.