Siobhan McGowan has had one novel published, but not much success since, and is now running a writing class. One of her students is Alex Parkinson, and it doesn't take long for him to fall desperately in love with her. Unfortunately, it's a one-sided love and Alex begins stalking Siobhan. His obsession is so overwhelming that it results in the death of another member of the writing class, a woman named Kathy, who had the beginnings of a close friendship with Siobhan, one that Alex was quite jealous of. But just how much did Alex really have to do with the death?
I've read some truly terrible psychological thrillers, such as "Hanging Hill" by Mo Hayder and "Bloodprint" by Kitty Sewell, and some underwhelming ones like "The Executor" by Jesse Kellerman. So it was great to read a psychological thriller done right, as it is in "Killing Cupid". I hadn't been too impressed with these authors' other book "Catch Your Death", so I was very pleased that I really enjoyed this one. Once again, it just goes to show that you shouldn't write off an author based on one misfire.
The strong point here is the characterisation. The book is told exclusively through the point of view of Siobhan and Alex as they write in their journals. While I've never understood how people could remember entire conversations word-for-word to put in their journal, it was something I was able to gloss over because Siobhan and Alex came across as real people. People I could actually meet in real life. And even when they were doing outrageous things, I still liked them.
I really must emphasise how well-drawn the characters are. They are so clearly defined that you understand and believe their actions. This is particularly important in the second half of the book when the fortunes of the characters begin to change and Siobhan's behaviour descends into stalker-like territory of her own. Since she seems like a real person with real feelings and insecurities, her actions make sense.
And perhaps that's one of the books failings - it works so well as a character study that it never quite ratchets up the tension you would expect in a really good thriller. Don't get me wrong - I would highly recommend this as a psychological thriller that's done right - but there's just not a sense that things will go terribly wrong, especially after Siobhan's behaviour goes more-and-more off the rails. The idea that Kathy's death may or may not have been a murder isn't explored enough to have much impact, and therefore there's not a feeling that any of the main characters are in potential danger.
It's hard to explain why the book works so well despite the lack of genuine suspense. I liken it to "Eyes" by Felice Picano - the events are extremely fascinating, but not as exciting as they could or should be. The appeal here is getting inside the heads of two interesting characters and understanding their actions, even when those actions go against what is acceptable in society. The fact they both remain likeable is a real testament to the skill of the authors. After all, there are a lot of books out there where I've truly detested the hero or heroine.
If you enjoy a good psychological thriller, "Killing Cupid" should be right up your alley. There's no random murder thrown in like most in this genre to pass it off as a psychological thriller. Rather, the crime elements (or even lack thereof) arise naturally out of the characters and the proceedings. I've already downloaded "Forward Slash" (love the title) onto my Kindle to see what else these authors have in store for me. It's always good to have a second chance pay off.