I have literally sat on this review for a week, trying to figure out the best way to write it, because this book was truly that fascinating and that interesting.
What first got my attention was of course the general summary that went along with the very enticing title. The book does, in fact, read precisely like a journal and one of a truly troubled individual. It’s like a deep dive into the mind of what once was a fairly normal young man and how he became a violent sex offender and murder.
What we get in this book is a fictional glimpse into the psyche of an abused boy who grows up not knowing how to deal with any of his emotions, no coping skills to deal with his abuse, no support system outside of his sister (and even that is a questionable ally at times) and nowhere he can consider a truly safe place to be himself.
Let me give you a little background on our young man/offender. His name is Russell Pisarek. He is 26 years old. He lives with his sister and her young son, who absolutely adores his uncle. Russell has a job at some sort of research facility where they use animals for testing. He is socially awkward and has trouble making friends and fitting in. He comes from a very dysfunctional home and was abused throughout his entire childhood by both his mother and his father. Although his father took part in the abuse, his mother was ultimately the controlling factor in the house and she governed with the heaviest of iron fists.
There’s one more thing about Russell. He wets the bed. Not all the time, well, at least not anymore. As a child this was a real problem and when he would have a nighttime accident, his mother went to great lengths to punish him in a variety of ways. She not only humiliated him inside and outside their household, she beat him, berated him and worst of all (for him) she would shave his head EVERY time he would pee the bed. If he tried to resist the punishment, she and his father would viciously hold him down to get the job done.
This type of violence and discipline begets a lot of built up anger and resentment in Russell. He begins to hate his mother Melanie. So much so that he’s given her the nickname “melanoma” because he feels she’s like a cancerous poison in his life. He also has no respect for his father, whom he calls by his first name, Jody, instead of Dad or anything like that.
As we read through Russell’s journal we learn about the difference between a stressor and a trigger in the psychopathy of a budding serial killer. The stressor is explained to us repeatedly and in incredible detail, while the trigger that finally sets him off into actually carrying out his thoughts and desires is a single occurrence near the end of the book.
But it is so easy to follow the evolution of the psychopath when it is laid out for us in this fashion. The descriptions of anger and pain, resentment and the feeling of inadequacy and not belonging, are clearly articulated in this book. So well done in fact, that I often wondered if the author somehow had some sort of personal experience with a psychopath or the details of psychopathology.
I mean, if there was an ongoing investigation and some cops found this journal, they would be having a field day ripping this Russell guy to shreds. It would be so easy for a profiler to nail him off of this kind of material as well. He basically gives a road map to his measured and somewhat controlled insanity.
I really enjoyed this book. It felt incredibly real when reading it. There ARE some parts, like the first page, that are pretty gruesome and not for the faint of heart. But, those are few in the book and overall, it’s not a gore-fest or anything like that. But, it IS chilling and very creepy to read, especially when I know that there are people out there right now with psychopathology so similar to this and worse. It can make you cringe.
There will surely be moments while reading this where you’ll hate Russell and want to throw the book across the room. But, make no mistake, if you are human with ANY empathy in you at all, there will be moments where you will feel for him too. The thought that “something is just not right with him” or “it’s really not ALL his fault” or “that poor kid” may very well cross your mind. And when it does, remember that these people do exist. And most of them were born like you and me. Somewhere along the line in their upbringing things got done wrong, miscommunicated, mistaught, cross-contaminated and cross-wired. The end result is usually a combination of so many things gone wrong which is why these killers always seem to be such a psychological disaster area.
This book is a really interesting, entertaining, enjoyable read. It can also be an eye opener to those who are interested in how these people become the way they are. This book is well written, insightful, has a lot of power in it and seems to have a lot of true psychology foundation. (I know because I majored in Psychology and Criminology in college.) So, it’s not like the psychology of the book is completely made up. It has actual merit as far as I am concerned.
Truly a stunning and chilling read that makes you curious about humanity and question it at the same time.