The Surreal Killer

The Surreal Killer
Machu Picchu. Peru

Saturday, March 16, 2013


            I came across a review of “The Surreal Killer” on the book’s Amazon UK site (only £1.93 for the novel).   The reviewer thought the book was “too twee” for them.  I think this is one of those classic cases of Americans and British being separated by a common language.  At least for me it was a new word, which sent me quickly to the nearest dictionary.

            Before I share the definition with you, a word about the novel is in order here, I think.  The storyline is about a serial killer who murders in a particularly brutal fashion with a machete.  The murderer kills ten victims, with two of the killings described in detail in the novel.  Several other killings by others are mentioned in one place or another in the book, and another killing is described as it occurs.  All in all, an impressive body count I thought.

            “Twee” means excessively cute or delicate.  That’s an interesting way to describe multiple murder and dismemberment.  I find it difficult to imagine my hard-boiled mysteries as being delicate.  But that’s the fun of being a reader---in the end the book is whatever you the reader want it to be. 

Maybe my occasional attempts to lighten the mood went astray?  I’ve published six books thus far.  The first (The Empanada Affair) was replete with, what are in retrospect, not very well written sex scenes, detailed descriptions of the food in Northwest Argentina, detailed descriptions of the area, and detailed investigation of a murder.  I hoped the book would appeal to foodies, armchair tourists, readers who liked an erotic book with a plot, and mystery lovers.  In retrospect, too many genres all mixed together; maybe that would justify the “twee” label? 

Book number two (The Ambivalent Corpse) is a more conventional whodunit mystery/suspense/espionage novel with a pun at the end of each chapter to lighten the mood.  A punning detective appealed to some of the reviewers, but not to others.  Book sales have been OK and I spent a good bit of time researching the critical plot elements.  I’d say this book was a lot better written than the first and I was truly finding my series characters and my voice with this novel.  I could see this novel being called “twee” because of the puns that were used as a device to offset the suspense, even though the hard-boiled mood predominates in my mind.

Book number three (The Surreal Killer) followed the advice of several reviewers of the previous novel and eliminated the puns at the end of each chapter.  This has been by far my best selling book thus far, and is also a mystery/suspense/espionage thriller.  Every other chapter is written from the point of view of the killer.  I think looking into the killer’s point of view adds to the suspense.  Maybe not, maybe this comes across as too cute or “twee”?

The body count in the fourth novel (The Matador Murders) is even higher.  I doubt that a reader would find it excessively cute or delicate.  But, and it’s a big but, perception is in the eye of the beholder.  Exactly as it should be!

The two novellas (The Body in the Parking Structure and The Body in the Bed) are a lot faster moving stories at about one-third of the total word count and are almost completely plot driven.  I doubt that either one would be described as excessively cute or delicate. 

I appreciate the extra effort readers make when they take time to write book reviews.  I try to write reviews of all of the books I read and enjoy---there are several of my reviews on Amazon.  I thank the Amazon UK reviewer for taking her time and effort to review The Surreal Killer and for teaching me the word “twee”, which I’ll try to use in one of my books in the future.

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