Review: Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell

Publication Date: April 1, 2014
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 368 (ARC)
Source: Gifted
Rule One—Nothing is right, nothing is wrong.
Rule Two—Be careful.
Rule Three—Fight using your legs whenever possible, because they’re the strongest part of your body. Your arms are the weakest.
Rule Four—Hit to kill. The first blow should be the last, if at all possible.
Rule Five—The letters are the law.

Kit takes her role as London’s notorious “Perfect Killer” seriously. The letters and cash that come to her via a secret mailbox are not a game; choosing who to kill is not an impulse decision. Every letter she receives begins with “Dear Killer,” and every time Kit murders, she leaves a letter with the dead body. Her moral nihilism and thus her murders are a way of life—the only way of life she has ever known.

But when a letter appears in the mailbox that will have the power to topple Kit’s convictions as perfectly as she commits her murders, she must make a decision: follow the only rules she has ever known, or challenge Rule One, and go from there.

Katherine Ewell’s Dear Killer is a sinister psychological thriller that explores the thin line between good and evil, and the messiness of that inevitable moment when life contradicts everything you believe.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

This book was decidedly underwhelming. At one point I thought it had real potential, but, boy, was I wrong. I really don't even know where to begin, so I suppose it's best to start with our main character and work through all the gory and unrealistic details.

A seventeen year old serial killer. It was a pretty damn awesome concept that I was on board with immediately after reading the synopsis. And at times, being inside Kit's mind, I adored it because I was so freaked out. Learning her logic and the fact that she felt her secret job was necessary in the world to incite fear in others that brought them together was twisted. Watching her discuss different schools of thoughts to justify her actions were fascinating. Seeing her confidence wither and wane and then return full force in the most brutal of ways was awesome, and that's what bumped this book up from one star to one and a half stars for me. That's really the only thing I liked. The cool air and mystery of it all was astonishing, especially with how she chose her victims and her secret mailbox, but everything else was below satisfactory.

What bothered me the most was that Kit operated in a serial killer fantasyland. There is no such thing as the Perfect Killer. Everyone cracks under pressure one way or another and Kit's doom was an inevitability, but the fearlessness she felt made it seem like she really may get away with everything. However, the only reason she got away with everything was because this book was so unrealistic. In reality, security cameras wouldn't conveniently be absent from highrise business centers and school hallways. Characters wouldn't be oblivious to the truth. When people that a specific person outwardly hates or is associated with start dropping like flies, the police will immediately be on the hunt. But no, Kit operates in a world where everyone is conveniently oblivious and common sense and technology are not even blips on the horizon. The thrill of the chase was nonexistent. It took this psychological thriller and made it a psychological world of mambo-jumbo because it was built so poorly and made life too easy for a murder mastermind.

The characterization was also very bland. Kit's only friend, Maggie, is a nutcase. She's either a scared girl curling in on herself because she cares too much what other people think or she has no grasp on reality as she revels in depressing times. Kit is just very bland when she's not actually reflecting on a murder or committing one because anything not involving her murdering alter-ego, Diana, is just plain boring. Her parents are terrible because her Dad is a dead-beat and her mother turned her into a monster. Continuing the cliche of terrible parents in young adult literature, but taking it to a newly disturbing level. I hope with all hope that no parents are really like this.

And lastly, there's Alex, the police officer that is trying to figure out who, exactly, the Perfect Killer is. While his presence in the story was interesting, he was really stupid. He was too trusting, something a cop never should be, and he brought a young and untrained random girl into a high-profile case because she had a keen sense of facts. He didn't even stop to question that maybe she knew these facts because she was related to the case somehow. When her friends, foes, and acquaintances began dying, she was just a lowly victim in his eyes. When after the first meeting she said she would see him tomorrow and it was conveniently at the scene of the Perfect Killer's most recent murder, he didn't bat an eyelash. He was an idiot and no official would be that dense. Again, nonexistent fantasyland. I mean, there was seriously a moment where our serial killer told someone who she was and that she was going to kill him and then she didn't follow through with it, but the intended victim promised not to tell the authorities because her gut told her not to. I mean, really?! I can't even handle the absurdity of it all.

I don't know what to attribute any of this to because this is clearly a debut novel. I know many people who both loved and hated this book and I think it all boils down to what kind of reader you are. Analytical readers like myself will be less than thrilled, but emotional readers may have a chance. I thought the writing was a little too simplistic which is what made the book so fast paced, but what bums me out the most is that this book truly had potential. The author made this book deal as a denior in high school last year, meaning that she's my age. I so strongly wish she held onto this story for a few more years and refined it so that it is told as the tale it deserves to be told as. Instead it's a story full of plot holes, stupid characters with cardboard personalities, and too many unbelievable instances that left me wanting so much more.

This book had no profound impact on me and I found that there was very little to like, but because Ewell makes us strongly consider what makes something right and wrong, good or evil, I'm curious about her future novels. I will, however, approach them with more caution. I just hate seeing an awesome idea go to waste.

1.5 stars



  1. Yeah, no. I'm somewhat emotional as a reader, but I can't suspend disbelief THAT many times. Like, just no.

  2. Aww man, this one sounded like it had so much going for it! I loved your first paragraph; I was like, it doesn't matter. Whatever she says next won't be able to outweigh how great it would be to be inside a mind that's that messed up! But for everything to be so convenient and for everyone to be so blind/trusting? No way. I'm not an overly analytical reader, but things need to make some sense for me to suspend disbelief.

  3. Your review hit the nail on the head. I just couldn't get behind this one either. There was so much that was unbelievable. Though I didn't absolutely hate it like others did.