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by Jincy Willett
St Martin's , August 2022
400 pages
ISBN: 1250275148

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Third in Jincy Willett's Amy Gallup series, AMY AMONG THE SERIAL KILLERS is a surprisingly compelling read. Surprisingly because it is not a fast-paced page turner, there's a plethora of coincidences and barely believable actions, the plot wanders, the characters are quirkily inept, and the murders often seem to be just background noise. However, all of that works remarkably well in the final analysis.

Willett alternates viewpoints between (mostly) Carla Karolac, a former child actor struggling to shake off her dead mother's overbearing presence, and Amy Gallup, a writer and retired writing teacher. Carla has established a successful writing retreat and gets along fairly well except she can't quite bring herself to dispose of her mother's ashes, nor can she overcome her writer's block. When she finds her therapist Toonie murdered, Carla's semi-complicated life becomes more so, and she turns to her former writing teacher Amy for help. Before either of them really realizes what's happening, their former writing group, which hasn't met for several years, reunites and revisits former crimes while trying to solve the current one. Toonie isn't the only victim, and as more victims appear, Amy, Carla, and their friends are caught up—at least peripherally, at first—in the hunt for what seems to be a serial killer. As the novel progresses, danger draws nearer, and Amy and Carla both find themselves in the killer's (or killers') sights.

As Willett has established in the earlier Amy novels, Amy is a loner and a bit of a recluse, but she's forced to interact with others and establish relationships. Carla, too, is a lonely soul trying to establish her place in the world, and both turn out to be interesting, well-developed characters who continue to surprise and delight throughout the novel. And the novel is funny, with a wit that can catch the reader off guard. Willett has fun with writing groups and writing prompts in particular, but the off-kilter viewpoints and somewhat over-the-top oddities of her characters add to the fun, whether or not the writing references hit home.

Easily able to be read as a stand-alone novel, AMY AMONG THE SERIAL KILLERS does reveal spoilers to earlier books in the series, but the revelation of the murderer probably won't take much away from the enjoyment of the previous books if this one is anything to go by. The murder mystery itself does give the novel structure and propels the plot forward, but the main interests here are the characters and their evolutions, as well as the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) humor and a quiet, yet sparkling, imagination.

§ Meredith Frazier, a writer with a background in English literature, lives in Dallas, Texas

Reviewed by Meredith Frazier, August 2022

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