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Frannie in the Pages

"Dear Killer" by Katherine Ewell

Dear Killer - Katherine Ewell

A crucial premise: I’m confused. I’m confused in a way that makes it impossible to understand whether it is a positive or a negative confusion. It isn’t a “did I like it or not” kind of confusion, it’s more of a blank “where am I and what has happened” kind of confusion.


When I first heard of Dear Killer, I was ecstatic. Finally something new, something completely different, a debut written by an impressively young author. Yes, it had my attention and my curiosity knew no bounds.


Kit is an English seventeen year old teenager. She lives in a quite big house with her mother and her never-present father. She is able to make herself perfectly invisible, blend among the crowd like a raindrop that falls in a river but she’s not a normal girl. She’s also Diana, everyone’s assassin. She doesn’t have a specific modus operandi, she never leaves a trace aside from the letter with which she was hired that always arise suspicion but doesn’t have consequences; just a small price to pay, doubt. She’s the Perfect Killer.

She has been killing for years. Her mother was a killer before her; then she almost got caught and decided to settle down with an unobservant but rich man and passed all her knowledge to her daughter, so she could continue with the tradition. Kit is what she is because of how she was raised. Murder isn’t something personal; it’s something that needs to be done, a service she provides to those who can’t put themselves on the line and ask her to take care of it. Nobody has ever seen her or knows anything about her. She could be anyone.

One day she receives a letter from a guy, Michael, who goes to the same high school she goes to. He wants her to kill a girl named Maggie. To do it, Kit decides first to become friends with her but she hadn’t considered that Michael was a psychopath and he wouldn’t have left Maggie alone. Therefore Kit turns into the guardian: no one but her can toy with her prey without paying.


This book made me think. I’m strongly against murder, of course, and I truly believe that violence is never the answer but moral nihilism is nonetheless a fascinating topic: is there a greater truth to morality? Or are rightness and wrongness artificial constructs, determined by the society we live in? Human sacrifice is cruel and horrible but it has been done and celebrated in the past, same for cannibalism or genocide. And what if a little kid is starving to death and steals an apple? Technically it is a crime but is what he’s doing wrong? It’s really scary if you stop to seriously consider the conundrum.


However what pulled me off and annoyed me was the main character, Kit. She is what confused me in a negative way, I’m starting to realize. I would like to say that I didn’t like her but that would be too easy. I didn’t understand her. But it isn’t the comforting misunderstanding, like “she is a serial killer and you should be happy you don’t get why she’s doing what she’s doing, otherwise you should be worried”; I just didn’t get it. Most of the times, she acted incoherently and it all seemed surreal: one minute she’s this cold hearted monster and the next she was shocked by what she had done and wanted to change but then she figured everything out and found a deeper purpose to her actions. I kind of wondered if she was suffering from a bipolar disorder. I wasn’t convinced by her. It’s like the author started writing and then decided along the way what was going to happen and  molded Kit’s thoughts accordingly.


Though I appreciated its originality, at times it was a bit hard to actually believe that a teenager (and even when she was a twelve year old kid) was able to kill all these people with her bare hands and get away with it but, if you just accept it and go with it, the story manages to catch you, with all its mystery and the London’s cloudy atmosphere.


The conclusion was cut a bit abruptly but those who enjoy open endings surely won’t be disappointed.