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Psycho-Hunter's Casebook, by Kurt Newton Book Review | SFReader.com
PsychoHunter's Casebook, by Kurt Newton Genre: Poetry Publisher: Dark Vesper Published: 2002 Review Posted: 7/18/2005 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 9 out of 10
PsychoHunter's Casebook, by Kurt Newton
Book Review by Phillip A. Ellis
Have you read this book?
Imagine, if you will, four psychopaths united by a common thread: poetry. Investigated by the same man, the same psycho-hunter of the title, each of the four serial killers in this slim volume are united by a shared expression of their psychopathology through the medium of poetry. As a result, they are driven to express themselves through the intertwined media of murder and verse, and the result is a promising little book of poetry.
And as poetry goes, it is pretty good. It explores a darker palette than most, and, as such, it displays an imaginative mastery of subject married to a surety of skill and handling. Though some poems may lack the same frisson of others in this sequence, it is more the overall effect that points towards would could easily be a bravura performance.
Reading, then, such lines as:
At times like these
I dread this labor of love,
when the body's blood becomes
a cold dark gel, it contents
too slippery to grasp.
it is easy to see that the poet has achieved the overall sequence's promise, and delivered an almost perfect piece of poetry. Yet, in doing so, it runs against some strong currents, that diminish the efficaciousness of the overall performance.
Serial killers have become such a staple of modern horror that, quite simply, it has to be a special one to stimulate jaded appetites. Such works as "Psycho" and "Hannibal" have created the result that readers demand the best of an author. And, in comparison, the four here seem lackluster. There is no real demonstration of insight, and no sense of psychological depth, and the work is spread too thinly over too wide a ground. One way that the collection could have been made stronger is for Newton to have concentrated on one of these four named killers, rather than diluting his efforts over four. The increased focus would have enabled more depth and complexity of focus, and the end result would not be as superficial as the collection as we have it.
In addition, this is a rather thin sample of poetry. More work, with the same intensity of focus would lead to a more satisfying read. Given that, of the 45 or so pages, only 30 contain poetry, this paucity is readily evident. That's an average of just under eight pages per figure. The resultant thinness of each section makes the lack of depth obvious. This is enough to give a taste of what could be, rather than enough to satisfy any real appetite.
The final, and possibly worst, problem, is in the nature of the final revelation. Although following on a perceived need for a final twist, the revelation is such as to leave the astute reader unsatisfied. There is little enough evidence within the book to support its conclusion, upon second and more readings. And, as surprises go, it is merely a standard variation on a familiar theme. This diminishes the overall effect of this volume, and leads to a far less satisfying read in the end.
This is not, then, an essential volume. If, like myself, you enjoy Kurt Newton's poetry, it is one to be collected. If you are an aficionado of horror, and the literature of serial killers in particular, or of darker poetry, I recommend having a look, even if only as an example of what the genre can produce through poetry. Otherwise, maybe borrow it from a friend, and read something of potential, but don't necessarily go out of your way for it.
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