Michael J. Seidlinger is the author of The Day We Delay, In Great Company, The Artist in Question, and The Sky Conducting. When he isn't consumed with language, he's transforming into a graphic artist, musician, and professional boxer.
"Seidlinger twists the knife and unfolds a tightly controlled sense of mayhem . . . a riveting read of psycho-geography."
"Seidlinger has once again brought to the table the elements that make his work so enjoyable and then taken a step further: he's reinvented the serial killer thriller."
"Michael Seidlinger's swift-moving novel is an interesting addition to the genre, with all kinds of offbeat touches there for the connoisseur. He reminds me, in style, of some of the Swedish crime-writers we've seen."
I usually write reviews to get people thinking about books that I love, but I wanted to talk about Michael Seidlinger's My Pet Serial Killer for different reasons. Mind you, I do love this book. However, I think there is a significant chance that this book will be misunderstood by a lot of people.
I think there will be an easy tendency to give into with this book to dismiss it as 'serial killer fiction.' People could easily spend their time focused all on that, like they did with American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. After all, it does involve serial killings — lots and lots of serial killings:
Hazel with her, big surprise, hazel eyes had that cherry flavor and he used saw blades he found in the alley on the way to her apartment.
Dawn was a musician of some sort, or at least she wanted to be. He talks about how she tasted wrong, just wrong, not like any of the others, and how he reacted, one end of the guitar as far into her as possible before she couldn't take any more.
Hannah was his second gunshot. He got the gun barrel really deep inside her and he's talking about how she really liked it, "Didn't even ask if it was loaded or not," and how she was honey-flavor too. The trigger pulled he made sure to be out of there in no time.
Ingrid was tattooed in all the wrong places but had the flavor of strawberry; her clitoral hood pierced, he tasted her for what felt like an hour, her moaning and loving it, gripping the back of his head, smothering his face with her flavor, as she oozed out more, mid orgasm, ecstatic…He did a little piercing her, piercing there, and she enjoyed it until he took the piercing gun right inside of her and pierced something that wasn't meant to be pierced.
It is graphic. It is horrifying. However, there is much more going on.
To me at least, this book isn't really about serial killing. It's about Claire, nightmarish, frightening Claire. Claire is a forensic student who finds Victor, the serial killer, and makes him her pet. She houses him, finds him victims, and tells him what to do. She takes control of her pet serial killer and makes him satisfy her desires:
I'm wanting him to say it, and say it again. One more time.
He's hesitating so I begin to pull him away but then he buckles, "I'm yours! I'm yours!" And then I'm telling him it's all easy if you're willing to do everything I say. As long as he lends every inch of himself as well as every aspect of his work, to me, everything will be taken care of. He'll never be found and I'll do all the finding for him.
No one will ever be the same.
The mystery will consume everyone and I'm the only one that'll have known every inch. I'll have seen everything before it turned into common knowledge. I'll have been there, telling him what to erase and what to keep. And I'll be saying to him every line that no one else will hear.
Claire is cold, though certainly is passionate at moments. She views people clinically, pondering how unseeing they are of each other and themselves, thoughtlessly performing roles that are mechanistic and pitiful. They have no 'fight' in them, and she needs someone who does. The important question is whether Victor has enough 'fight' within him to satisfy Claire . . . or whether anyone does.
Seidlinger has a great deal of subtlety in My Pet Serial Killer. It seems so easy to only see the killing, dramatically rendered as it is, and to not consciously register what lies beneath. I think readers will get it all on some level, but perhaps not at the forefront of their minds. Instead, I think they could get caught up in the surface happenings and only talk of this as a 'serial killer book.' To me, that would be a mistake. It would miss everything.
In summary, if I have one piece of advice to give you when reading My Pet Serial Killer, it's pay close attention. Don't assume that this is just a slasher-thriller, because it's not. There are devious psychological manipulations going on while you read, and they reach much further than the confines of the pages. Like so many in the book, if you aren't careful, Claire will be doing things to you as you read that you won't even begin to guess at. Victor would certainly tell you, there are consequences to only seeing Claire's surface instead of 'finding' her.