The Edge of Sleep by David Wiltse
Pros: intriguing bad guys
Cons: horrid protagonists, slipshod investigative work
A very decent serial killer novel. But one main flaw.
That’s my quickie review of David Wiltse’s The Edge of Sleep.
This book examines a horrible case of serial abuse and murder of young boys. Several young boys have disappeared over the years. They’re gone for a couple months and then, suddenly, their badly beaten bodies turn up in plain view, dead from strangulation.
Becker is an ex-FBI agent, fighting his own demons during his semi-retirement. Karen is his ex-lover, and a current agent. She appeals to Becker for help on this case. Too many boys have met terrible fates and the FBI has scarcely a clue. Karen knows it will hurt Becker to become involved in another terrible case, but she asks, anyway.
Becker and Karen work together to solve the mystery. And, along the way, they renew their old relationship. Meanwhile, Becker grows close to Karen’s young son.
We, the readers, know exactly who’s taking the boys. Half the book is written from the killer’s point of view, so we get to understand what’s driving him. It’s maddening that we are so far ahead of the authorities in the investigation. Especially when they make glaringly wrong assumptions about the case. This was annoying, but not the worst problem in this book.
The worst problem is that Becker isn’t too likeable. But as bad as he is, Karen is ten times worse. She is one of the most unlikeable main characters I’ve ever read. It’s rare that I root for the bad guys to win but in this case, Karen was such a pain in the butt that I found myself hoping for a less than favorable outcome for her.
Not for the boys, of course. I could never root for pain and suffering for the young victims. But as for Karen… she deserves what she gets, frankly. And, put her with Becker, himself unlikeable, and you have a really horrid pair of protagonists.
On the other hand, the bad guys – while they commit horrendous acts – are at least well-developed and, to some extent, likeable. I know that sounds weird – but their evil is, in large part, not their fault. Whereas Karen, she’s just a witch, so I can’t give her a pass.
Still, I enjoyed The Edge of Sleep. Give it a try.