John Wayne Cleaver is a sixteen year old diagnosed sociopath. His obsession with serial killers and death make him a bit of an outcast, as does the fact that his mom owns the county mortuary, but John is okay being an outcast. John lacks empathy, after all. And a man without empathy is a dangerous man, especially one with a dark side like John.
I Don’t Want to Kill You, the final book of the John Cleaver series by Dan Wells, is a satisfying conclusion to the dark and twisted story Wells has created. Clayton County has experienced a fair deal of death recently, ever since the harrowing Clayton Killer left a string of bodies two years back. John Cleaver, now a junior in high school, is still struggling with his dark side. Even more of a struggle is dealing with the terrible secret he knows about the serial killers, a secret that some people want to keep hidden.
I can’t say much about this book without spoiling the previous two. The short of it is that Dan Wells has created a dark but remarkable protagonist. John is instantly accessible in that his thoughts and feelings are things all teenagers experience. Dialogue is poignant rather than cringeworthy. Action is tense rather than passive. John is a flawed character that the Reader cannot help but root for.
The structure of this novel is in the same vein as the other two, but slightly different, too. There are murders and John wants to try and get a step ahead of the killer, thus the teenager once again begins playing whodunit. I Don’t Want to Kill You continues to up the ante with John’s inner demons until a conclusion that was foreseeable-but-perfect. I say perfect because honestly I can’t think of a better, more appropriate ending for the series.
On a side note, I Don’t Want to Kill You was my least favorite of this series. In I Am Not A Serial Killer [my review here], the story was fresh, the plot intense, and the Great Reveal knocked my socks off (metaphorically). With Mr. Monster [my review here] the pacing was at full-throttle and just macabre enough to not utterly repulse me. I Don’t Want to Kill You is hard (nigh impossible) to put down, but at the same time the story is also winding down, too. Dénouement is in the air. The story is still great and very entertaining, but to me it is less fresh, less urgent than the previous books.
I very much enjoyed the story Dan Wells penned. It’s always a delight to form a connection with a character, even one as creepy-weird as John Cleaver. I can very much recommend the whole series to anyone with a stomach for the murders. Fans of Dexter or CSI should like the stuff, just be advised that the series is not for the faint of heart. Overall, John Wayne Cleaver is a fascinating character and I’m glad to have read about his story. It’s a shame that the series is over, but I’m thankful, too, that Wells was capable of writing a satisfying conclusion. I boldly recommend the whole kit and caboodle.