Rick Reed always looks in directions others don’t, finding inspiration and possibilities in territory untraveled by other writers. In this case, he twists a sort-of romance around a Jeffrey Dahmer obsession and comes up with a short, sharp, shock of a thriller that you can probably finish in an evening if you don’t stop to snack too much.
Emory Hughes is under a lot of stress. He’s the sole support of his sick mother and his uncaring sister, and the pressure is starting to show. Sensing a kindred spirit, he becomes fascinated with the Dahmer case and even ends up corresponding with the killer. Those letters are the highlight of his day, but he also finds some relief in a new relationship with Tyler Kay. When his mother dies, his sister leaves and so does Tyler. All Emory has left is Dahmer and the letters. Or does he?
No matter what genre he’s writing in, Reed never fails to entertain. Here, he builds up a nice sense of dread with the requisite shocks here and there to keep you interested. Emory is proper creepy, especially when his mother dies and he undergoes his transformation from undisciplined slob to a lean, mean, wannabe killing machine. Tyler is also an interesting character, all the more so because he sees Emory’s fascination with Dahmer, yet he continues to stay in contact with him. Emory’s sister also shines as a supporting character, making a solid transition from uncaring to life-saving.
There is, however, one plot point not fully resolved. I can’t be too detailed as it’s a spoiler, and it certainly doesn’t damage a finely told tale all that much, but the omission of its resolution did leave me wondering when all was said and done. I don’t know if it was left open for a possible sequel or if Reed’s editor was just asleep at the switch, but as I said, it doesn’t harm the narrative. Kudos to the art department as well for coming up with a nicely evocative cover.
So, Rick R. Reed’s latest, The Man from Milwaukee, is a fast-paced thriller from a sure hand at his craft. It’s a nice change of pace from the horrors of the daily headlines.
© 2020 Jerry L. Wheeler