From the NYT Bestseller
List. . .
Chasing the Boogeyman, Richard Chizmar. This is an interesting book. The author presents a memoir of a period of his life and weaves into his real life story a fictional serial killer crime spree. It’s hard to know where autobiographical detail ends and imagination begins. Applause to the author for pulling off such a nifty feat. If not for the author clearing things up at the end, you might be hard pressed to say what was real and what wasn’t.
The story itself relates to a series of teenage girl murders that occur in 1988 in a small Maryland town while the author was living there. Most of the book focuses on the murders and the efforts to catch the killer, including the author’s attempts to solve the case along with his friends.
At the time, the author was an aspiring fiction writer living with his parents, who became fascinated and horrified by the murders taking place around him. The last part of the book skips ahead to 2019, when the identity of the killer is revealed along with the details of his crimes.
The novel has strong aspects of a true crime story and a murder mystery. I wouldn’t call the book a horror story, beyond the horror inherent in any kind of senseless murder. The story is mostly told in a fairly flat, just-give-me-the-facts narrative. There’s not a ton of depth to the characters and almost no tension or suspense. The book reads a lot like a bare bones police file. The crimes, the victims, the author, and even the killer are mostly kept at arm’s length, so I didn’t develop much of a connection with anyone in the story. Compare this story with Silence of the Lambs and you get what I’m saying.
Aside from the detached, distant narrative style, the story starts out very slow as the author tells us all about himself and the town he grew up in. Alas, the story continues to sag in places, becomes listless at times, and treads water too much. Frankly, unless a celebrity or unusual person is involved, memoirs are really boring. And so is this story for the most part. Several times I was tempted to skip to the end to find out who the killer is and just pull the plug on finishing the book, but I hung in there.
Who should read this book? Fans of true crime stories probably are the best audience for this book, with a fans of memoir a close second. As I said, I give credit to the author for experimenting with this memoir/fiction mashup. He does a great job of it. Unfortunately, memoir just doesn’t float my boat.