Serial Killer Smorgasbord – Part 3

Mister Slaughter by Robert McCammon

The third book in McCammon’s Matthew Corbett series is the most gruesome to date.

The book synopsis:

The world of Colonial America comes vibrantly to life in this masterful new historical thriller by Robert McCammon. The latest entry in the popular Matthew Corbett series, which began with Speaks the Nightbird and continued in The Queen of Bedlam,Mister Slaughter opens in the emerging metropolis of New York City in 1702, and proceeds to take both Matthew and the reader on an unforgettable journey of horror, violence, and personal discovery.

The journey begins when Matthew, now an apprentice “problem solver” for the London-based Herrald Agency, accepts an unusual and hazardous commission. Together with his colleague, Hudson Greathouse, he agrees to escort the notorious mass murderer Tyranthus Slaughter from an asylum outside Philadelphia to the docks of New York. Along the way, Slaughter makes his captors a surprising—and extremely tempting—offer. Their response to this offer will alter the course of the novel, setting in motion a series of astonishing, ultimately catastrophic events.

Mister Slaughter is at once a classic portrait of an archetypal serial killer and an exquisitely detailed account of a fledgling nation still in the process of inventing itself. Suspenseful, illuminating, never less than compulsively readable, it is, by any measure, an extraordinary achievement, the largest accomplishment to date from one of our most gifted—and necessary—writers.

This book really crackles and dear Lord the price Corbett has to pay for a decision really made by his partner Greathouse but to which Corbett agrees to.  Damnably so for Corbett since he has found money which could be used for the altruistic purpose Greathouse, mostly, intends to use with the lure of what Slaughter is offering.

This book leads Corbett through a trail of innocent victims whose deaths are on his hands.  McCammon also deftly ties in the over arcing storyline of Professor Fell.  This book leaves Corbett a changed man for life and not in the best of ways.  It will be a long journey for him to find his way back out of the darkness.  A journey that Corbett will likely not be able to make on his own.  And that is a parallel internal journey to the ones that Corbett will face in each book.  The answer to the internal journey is within these books but based on where things stand in the series, it will be a long time before Corbett finds it.

Slaughter is a vile creature and a worthy adversary for Corbett.

For my money, this is the best book in the series.

You may never look at sausages the same way again.

Serial Killer Smorgasbord – Part 2

Serial Killer Smorgasbord – Part 2


Desparate for some ratings traction NBC took a gamble with Hannibal and let TV show runner vet Bryan Fuller bring this grisly series to broadcast TV with the hope that the cachet that Silence of the Lambs – Hannibal the Cannibal Lectern has would bring some much needed eyes to the network.  And for the most part that gamble paid off.

Hannibal the TV series is a prequel to the events that take place prior to those from ManHunter and Silence of the Lambs.  The show has a great cast but no doubt the lion’s share of the credit belongs with Bryan Fuller.  Fuller was a self professed Star Trek freak who won his way onto the show when there was an open call for scripts.  From there Fuller has worked his way up to producer gigs on such shows as Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies, Heroes, a Munsters remake of the 60s TV series and rejected pilot – Mockingbird Lane.  Throughout his various gigs, Fuller has shown himself a consummate story teller and all those skills come to play with Hannibal.

Hannibal stars Hugh fancy as a mentally tortured profiler, Will Graham brought in by the FBI’s Jack Crawford played by Laurence Fishburne, and in the titular role, Mads Mikkelsen.  There are other characters but their function is restricted to plot holders. Slightly more nuanced is psychiatrist Dr. Alana Bloom played by Caroline Dhavernas who is romantically attracted to Will.

The lead 3 characters are all great with Mikkelsen having the juiciest role.  The show’s motif of naming each episode after a culinary serving tied into dinner scenes of Hannibal serving his guests meals of questionable origin never became tired.  They never failed to make me uneasy.

One of the pitfalls the show avoided that I expected was the episodes to be driven by stand alone murder investigations tied to an over arcing season long serialized thread. Instead the story was driven the other way around.  Each episode was part of the gestalt of the season long story behind which stood Hannibal manipulating everyone especially Will.

Given Will’s tenuous hold on his mental state I pondered how the series would be able to go beyond this season with Will often seen in a state of not only mental but physical distress: disheveled and sweat soaked.  The toil on his character was not sustainable in the long term. There seemed to be no plausible story line with any longevity.

But Bryan Fuller brings the close of the first season to the only possible end point that allows for a second season.  A second season that I am very excited to see where the show goes next.  Will Graham is locked away and viewed as insane by the world but Will knows that Lectern was behind it all.  It’s a stunning reversal of all the previous incarnations of the two characters.

Brilliant Bryan Fuller!  Brilliant.

In Part 3 we avoid the clutches of Mr. Slaughter.

Serial Killer Smorgasbord – 1st Course

Over the past few weeks my wife and I have been watching a couple of series that dealt with serial killers. (It’s one of those strange confluence of separate events that happen around the same time.)   In this first visit to the Serial Killer Buffet Table I’ll recount how are palettes responded to the presentation of two TV series.

One of the TV series represents the new model in TV viewing paradigm – instant access to all the episodes via Netflix to view at the viewer’s leisure.  That was the case for The Fall which was a short 5 episodes and to my mind qualifies to be defined as the old style miniseries.  The other series, Hannibal, was presented in the tried and true manner – broadcast on a weekly basis on a major television network, NBC.  With only 13 episodes Hannibal, instead of the normal 22 episode run, felt more like a cable TV show on two counts: the shorter season run and the graphic nature of the show.

Two new TV series with different viewing experiences. Which one worked better?  Today our first course is one where we look at:


The Fall – a BBC Ireland production starrring Gillian Anderson & Jamie Dornan

Release in several distribution methods – TV in the UK, Netflix in North America this was an interesting series on several fronts.  First up is Gillian Anderson – who did double duty this year appearing in Hannibal too – as a hard nosed, no nonsense Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson from the MET who is brought to Belfast to investigate the details of a murder case.

This is the first big role that Anderson has headlined since the X-Files and time has been very kind to her in the time span between the end of the TV series and movies.  She owns the role of the outsider as Stella Gibson – a pretty generic name – who knows what she wants professionally and personally.

The series is more or less split between her and Jamie Dornan – who plays Paul Spector, the serial killer Gibson is pursuing. Over the first season, Dorman has the juicier role as we see his dual life as a married man with 2 children.  His wife suspects something is up and Spector who seems cool and collected at the start of the series quickly unravels as his compulsion causes him to become more and more reckless.

The pacing of the 5 episodes quickly caused my wife and I to perk up because it quickly became apparent the show was not going to resolve the duel between the two main characters unless the writers pulled a fast one. Thankfully they did not.

Close but no cigar is how the season can be summed up.  Gibson is thwarted but not down and the already announced second season will continue the chase in a new locale.  We both look forward to it.


Next, Hannibal tantalizes our taste buds.