Michelle Gagnon's Killing Me tells the story of a relentless serial killer hunting a con woman across the country. Gagnon's fifth adult mystery is terrifically off-kilter, veering as it does from laugh-out-loud humor to its hard-edged plot points. A funny serial-killer novel has inherent problems, but Gagnon (Unearthly Things; Strangelets) handles the comic moments with aplomb.
The first chapter of Killing Me embodies both humor and terror, as frightened college student Amber Jamison finds irony in the fact that's she's about to be the Pikachu Killer's latest victim. Torture seems imminent, but Amber just can't take seriously a killer who paints his victims to resemble a Pokémon character. Moments before she's strangled, Amber is saved by a masked woman who kills Amber's captor with a cattle prod. Amber fears she can't report this to the police, given that she has been a grifter bilking people since she was a teenager, so the 24-year-old flees Johnson City, Tenn., just two months shy of getting her degree in psychology. She arrives in Las Vegas--and has been followed by another serial killer and her rescuer.
The thread of betrayal runs through Killing Me: each character may be conning the other. Amber lands at a sleazy motel where she becomes friends with the owner, who's involved with an amateur sleuth group; a sex worker to whom Amber is attracted; and the masked woman, who calls herself Grace. None can be trusted, including the killer who ramps up the body count. Killing Me's brisk action keeps the believable surprises coming. --Oline H. Cogdill, freelance reviewer