Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Instrument of Evil & Judgment of Evil by Lori Lowthert (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Read an excerpt HERE
Order the Books HERE

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Lori A. Lowthert was born and brought up in Florida. She did her BS in biology from University of South Alabama and molecular biology from Princeton. She is a practicing psychiatrist and lives with her family in Connecticut. This is her debut.

ABOUT INSTRUMENT OF EVIL: Have you ever had a really big secret? Rebekah Johnson has one, and she's afraid to tell her new boyfriend, Scott. She's afraid if she tells him, he'll break up with her. Or turn her in to the police. Rebekah is a fledgling serial killer who's not quite ready to give up murder. Will she choose killing people or her relationship?

ABOUT JUDGMENT OF EVIL: Rebekah had vowed to stop killing for love, but she finds herself unable to stop. Scott still knows nothing about her secret life. She is happily attending graduate school when the unthinkable happens--she is arrested and charged for one of the murders she committed last year. She spends a few nights in jail before she goes in front of a judge, who sets the bail at an exorbitant $1 million. Her father and Scott are able to raise the necessary money and get her out on bail. She kills again, even when she is out on bail. Rebekah has hired an excellent criminal defense attorney, but she's afraid it won't be enough and she'll go back to jail.

CLASSIFICATION: The Evil series is a cross between the Dexter series by Jeff Lindsay and a coming-of-age storyline.

FORMAT/INFO: Instrument of Evil is 400 pages long divided over forty numbered chapters. Narration is in the first-person view focusing solely on Rebekah Johnson. October 8, 2011 marked the Paperback and e-book publication of Instrument of Evil by the author.

FORMAT/INFO: Judgment of Evil is 276 pages long divided over seventeen numbered chapters and a prologue. Narration is in the first-person view focusing solely again on Rebekah Johnson. November 25, 2011 marked the e-book publication of Judgment of Evil by the author.

ANALYSIS: Instrument of Evil is a debut which promises a look in to the making of a serial killer and to add to its credit the serial killer in question is also a female. With such a description I of course wanted to see how debutante author Lori Lowthert would handle the story and how different/similar it would be to the Dexter series by Jeff Lindsay.

The story begins in first person narrative with Rebekah remembering her childhood beginning at three, it’s from here the readers are shown an intimate look at her journey onto adulthood. It’s not with complete adversity but it’s not in the form you would think. Rebekah’s childhood is as normal as one can expect, however the reader is slowly shown her sociopathic tendencies which are not noticed by her parents. The reader is also privy to all her thoughts and actions and once she’s discovers the visceral thrill of taking a person’s life, that's when the reader discovers just how dangerous she will be.

The story then slowly but surely veers off into thriller territory from the growing up phase wherein we see Rebekah trying to perfect her technique, getting to know herself as a serial killer and selecting her victims. The author has very carefully given the reader a detailed outlook of her life and since the character is a developing sociopath. The reader’s sympathies might not entirely be with the protagonist but the author does her best to paint a compelling picture of a person who willing does morally reprehensible acts. This is the book’s greatest strength, the protagonist’s characterization which completely overshadows every one else. Not that the other characters are caricatures but they are also given their due stage presence. However they only come around when Rebekah decides to interact with them and thus their presence is actively controlled by the protagonist. The second point which works for this book is that the book eschews its thriller aspect for getting deeper into the overall life of the characters. This allows the author to completely flesh out the entire life story of the protagonist, showing us the smallest events as well as all the big kills leading onto the eventual climax which is a dual pronged strategy focusing on Rebekah’s personal and perverse life and thereby going on to an ending which is not easy to predict.

The second book then begins after the events of the climax of the first book and one of Rebekah’s kills has made her the prime suspect and to add to her troubles, her killer instincts have not dimmed by any degree. This is the main theme of book II whether Rebekah can learn to manage her own predatory instincts versus her feelings for Scott. This battle of her natures is fascinating to read about as many of her actions in the previous book come back to haunt her in this book and cause a further strain in her relationship with Scott. The book then races along to its climatic portion wherein she is faced with a different sort of an issue wherein she might have to decide what she eventually wants.

The second book is nearly half of the length of the first and this gives the book the edge over the first book wherein the story sometimes lost pace or seemed to lack focus as well. The sequel very specifically focuses on the thriller aspect of the story which was missing in the first book. The characterization again like the first book is top drawer stuff and with the tightly focused plot creates a story which is definitely hard to put down. Another positive aspect of the story is the unpredictability of the climax which is carried forward from the first book. The reader is never quite sure how the author aims to end the story and that helps tremendously in gauging the reader interest.

Both these books share a similar kind of negative feedback that is that the story is less of a thriller and more of a coming-of-age tale, wherein the protagonist instead of coming into her own as a person is slowly developing into a serial killer. Granted that Rebekah seems milder than most serial killers we have been exposed to like Hannibal Lecter, Patrick Bateman etc… If any she seems quite mild to even the female serial killers found in the massive serial killer saga by J.A. Konrath & Blake Crouch. What is slightly different about Rebekah is that she constantly fights her own nature not in entirety but she does consider her nature to be an aberration and she’s slowly trying to come to terms with it. Lastly both the books have this thriller semblance but it never completely ventures into thriller territory. It constantly flirts with the edges and then casually rolls over into a simpler story whilst constantly changing its path. Some readers might not necessarily enjoy this combination and therefore I would recommend that readers read the excerpts to get a feel of the story and then jump in.

CONCLUSION: The Evil series by Lori Lowthert is a fascinating but inadvertently uneven saga of a serial killer who while being a female is no less deadly than her male counterparts. The author definitely deserves to be applauded for taking on this story as her debut effort, perhaps in a few years her skills will get the requisite polish to match her ambitions and then the author will be someone to look out for.