Intensification is Story Three by Jo Michaels in a Pen Pals and Serial Killers series. I extracted this novel from the five-book bundle I purchased. Reviews for Book One and Book Two are finished, I gave both five-star reviews on Amazon. A period of a couple of days between reviews is essential for me to avoid “author burnout.” Think of reading a book with the title “1000 Jokes.” Your sense of humor might become jaded around joke number 900.
Intensification has an element in common with Alfred Hitchcock and Stephen King. Hitchcock liked to show up in his movies in some innocuous role and, of course, at an unpredictable point. Stephen King also appears unexpectedly in his films. Michaels also wanted to be part of the story. Even though it is not a spoiler, I will not reveal where the author first appears, but I will mention a somewhat puzzling comment/quote. The author becomes the subject of an internet search. The result is: “She was a writer and had several books on the market. Her social media profiles were full of non-informational stuff.” Usually, I would cite the Kindle location. With this quote, I won’t do that. Read the story to find the quote. The sentences amused me because I see frequent requests by authors to join their Twitter and Facebook feeds. The sentences quoted assure me I will find little information. A conundrum? I follow the websites for this author.
Michaels presents this story in thirteen chapters. Readers who have not figured out the twist by Chapter Four, at the latest, are not frequent readers of mystery or psychological thrillers. The story is still interesting because of its presentation. The fun stuff is in the process, not in anticipation of an inexplicable, twisted ending. Because I knew the end well in advance, this became a quick read for me as I looked for markers that signaled elements I knew had to be present.
For the same reason, I gave this novel four and one-half Amazon stars. The writing is good, but I was looking forward to a more twisted ending. For that reason, anticipation each book will be more twisted than the one previous, I don’t read an author’s novels back-to-back.
Hank and Tony are a team of detectives with a desire and a mission to protect and serve. Police protect us from the bad guys. Claude is a supremely creative bad guy. As readers begin the journey, there has been a string of four or five murders. It is not a spoiler to reveal that the figure will soon turn out to be more than twenty. Victims are not just killed; they are tortured. Organs are removed, many times before the victims’ deaths. Victims will die; Claude assures them of that. What is life without certainty? What the victims don’t know is that Claude will reassemble them after death in a more suitable form for his enjoyment.
I find dark humor in novels by Michaels. With Intensification, I found only one passage that made me smile. Not many stories involve a grand piano, but that was Claude’s special gift to a planned victim. The piano had to be delivered at a time the delivery people thought inconvenient, and one member of the team voiced his displeasure in the following exchange. I empathized with Claude.
“Claude shook his head and backed up as he apologized for standing in the way. “No problem, dude. Not like it’s heavy or anything,” Doug said between grunts as he pulled on the creeper. His partner sneered at the sarcasm. Briefly, Claude wondered if the other man would be interested in helping to murder Doug. It would be a short friendship forged in the need to have him taken out of the human race. Darwinism clearly hadn’t caught up.” (Kindle location 6853 of the bundled set). This type of humor is my favorite.
I look forward to reading Story Four to see if Michaels returns to unpredictable endings. This story is a good read but ranks a bit below novels One and Two, which is why I did not round up the rating to five stars.