Welcome back to the Book Club! We’re not much for themes or trends, but it’s hard to avoid the spirit of certain times of the year. October is finally here and let’s just face facts: things around here are going to get spoooooky. For the next few weeks, we’re taking the opportunity to explore some of the more creepy, scary, or just plain macabre entries in the world of fiction. We’re kicking things off with a real hum-dinger, and we can’t wait to see how dark we can eventually get as the month progresses. First things first, let’s put up the plastic skeletons and start painting everything black, it’s the TehBen Spooky Club y’all!
I Killed My Son-in-Law by Shay Mills begins as a one man stage show of sorts. Vick, a seemingly ordinary man who is approaching the twilight years of his life, has a pretty happy existence save for one particular caveat. Tad, his son-in-law, is an absolute piece of shit. He’s drug addicted, shamelessly minimally employed, and all around piece of shit to his wife and children. We only hear these things from Vick’s point of view, but it’s made very clear that Tad really doesn’t have a lot going for him. The conversational tone of Vick is interesting (and a bit rough around the edges), but easily forgiven as we feel like a passive visitor into his subconscious. As the title may lead you to believe, Vick is setting up to fix Tad’s wagon once and for all. And quite frankly, I’m not so sure it’s the best idea.
It’s of no issue to spill the beans on the eventualities of what Vick ends up doing to Tad: the title alone is nothing short of a spoiler in itself. What is surprising however, is the disturbing method of Vick’s intended punishment. This is no “run ’em over, rub ’em out” fantasy of snuffing the jerk of a son-in-law with the bumper of an F-150 before cracking a cold one with the boys…this is some brutal tortuous stuff! Approximately fifty percent of the story is spent solely on Vick’s torture and eventual murder of Tad, and the methods used are so sickening, I couldn’t in good conscious try to explain any of them. I truly don’t want to know the kind of person that would take joy in reading a story like this. I’m hopeful that the methods are explained as an artistic monument to the potential evils of the human mind, and not in reverence of it.
At its core, this may be an anthem story to all frustrated dads of piece-of-shit in-laws. But at the end of the day, the true crime/serial killer obsessed apologists will probably have more fun with it. It’s not as much a question of the victim’s deserved punishment, it’s more of a question of the sadist’s pleasure. It’s almost a shame Vick didn’t take out his Johnson and jerk one out to his unspeakable methods, as that would at least have answered all remaining questions about his motivation. Vick’s story doesn’t attempt to say anything more than the confessions of a killer for hire turned sadist fuck. However, the seemingly simplistic justification and complete lack of human emotion makes it’s own haunting statement…and there’s always room for an arthouse exploration of hate in this reader’s universe.
Verdict: I Killed My Son-in-Law by Shay Mills is a brutally grotesque interpretation of a violent fantasy carried out by someone lacking the faintest of remorse by their own admission. What starts as an identifiable monologue into the difficulties of being a father In-Law quickly flashes to the macabre blood lust of a torture fiend looking for the thinnest excuse to exercise his sick, wanton brutality. The premise is not without charm, but please be sure you’re looking for, or can at least accept the darkest of dark violence when the killer finally makes his move. The content isn’t such that we should be personally offended, but perhaps this can be used as an example of what we might have to overcome to better understand the cold heart of pure violence. This sure as hell is one way to kick off our spooky season!