A twisted and twisting thriller that questions identity, sanity, family, good and evil, and the nature of narration.

Kill the Next One - Frederico Axat

Thanks to NetGalley and to Mulholland Books for offering me an ARC copy of the book that I voluntarily choose to review.

The description of the novel fascinated me both as a reader and as a psychiatrist, but although I couldn’t completely switch off the psychiatrist in me (probably even non-psychiatrist will be wondering about diagnostics and pathologies as they read), my review is as a reader. (I don’t think I could avoid spoilers if I tried to offer a psychiatric reading of the story, so I won’t).

I have seen quite a few comments comparing it to Christopher Nolan, Stephen King, to Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island, Alfred Hitchcock, all apt comparisons, and I did think of Spellbound at some point. It is a clever and complex story divided into four books, that reflect different levels of insight and understanding, as we progressively enter deeper and deeper into Ted’s, the main character, mind.

The story is told in the third person from the point of view of the protagonist, Ted, whom we meet at a moment of crisis. The novel starts with a bang that will grab most readers, and it gets complicated as it moves along. What seemed a morally complex choice facing the protagonist becomes… Well, it’s not easy to know what. It’s difficult to talk about this book without revealing any spoilers, but let’s say that the level of confusion the reader experiences mirrors well that experienced by the main character, who finds it difficult to know what is true and what is not, if the people he meets are real or not, and if the experiences and memories he revisits in his mind are, or have been, real, or are simply figments of his imagination. The readers find themselves in the shoes of the protagonist, questioning everything they read and wondering how the pieces of the puzzle fit together.

The novel offers an explanation after another of what is happening and questions everything, from the soundness of mind of the protagonist and those around him to matters of identity, feelings, past and present, family relationships and notions of good and evil. It is a psychological thriller where we don’t even realise what really is at stake until quite late in the narration, which does not follow a standard format, and will fascinate those looking for something different and with an emphasis on the psychological.

The ending, that I did find more than satisfactory (although that might depend on the reader) made me question issues of narration once again and considering my fondness for unreliable narrators, although not narrated in the first person, this novel will definitely figure high in my list of recommendations. And I must try and make sure I read the author in Spanish too.