Review: Of Vengeance by J.D. Kurtness

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★★½

Dundurn | 2019

Opening Hook: Self-awareness via murder.

Main Character: An anti-hero minus the hero.

Plot Twisty-ness: A straight-forward diatribe.


*shakes fist* THIS COULD HAVE BEEN SO GOOD! I’m disappointed that I’m disappointed in this story.

Of Vengeance starts with an unnamed female narrator telling the reader she sees a cold-blooded killer every day when she looks in a mirror.

Oh really?! Do go on….

She recounts her life, starting at the age of 12 when she discovers that she really likes murdering terrible people after accidentally killing the worst bully at her school. It’s like a revenge fever dream that might have popped into your head for the briefest of moments when you think back to that time Andrew put a basketball under his shirt in Grade 7 and said: “Look, I’m Krystin!” because you were a chubby 12-year-old.

But what do I know?

new girl girls GIF

As an adult, The Narrator hones her dope murder skills between keeping up appearances as a semi-normal adult who stays off the grid. She targets anyone she deems a waste of oxygen based on how cruel they are to animals or people, and details for the reader how she tracks a victim for weeks or months, waiting for the perfect time to strike – always with a different M.O. to stay off police radar.

It’s very obvious why there are so many comparisons to Dexter with this novella, but it completely lacks the same stabby-stabby-oomph and well-articulated personality disorder.

black and white dexter GIF

She’s not a sociopath-wearing-a-human-suit character like Dexter is. She’s fully aware of right and wrong, and experiences empathy at such a high level that it’s partly what drives her murder sprees – repeatedly telling the readers how much she loves animals and nature. It’s just the human species she can’t stand because we are cruel, acting as though we have a right to rule over nature and other beings like the food chain is a real thing.

But then, what does she think she’s doing? For someone claiming to be so self-aware, she’s a turd of a hypocrite.

As a reader, there is a point where you might actually be rooting for the narrator as a very interesting anti-hero because who doesn’t want to kill the guy who leaves his dog chained up outside 24/7? Unfortunately, not even a female dog-avenging killer (that would totally be my killer shtick, FYI,) was enough for this story. Especially when she uses her disgust with most human beings to be borderline racist (apparently Latin American countries can’t keep newborn babies from being switched in hospitals, and all dark-skinned people are criminals,) and cruel to people who have done nothing but to exist in fat bodies or with faces that don’t fit conventional beauty standards.

Perhaps the point was to show that everyone can be a hateful bully, even if they think they’re being a hero. But it’s presented as if we should be cheering on the narrator start-to-finish, and at a certain point, I had a lot of trouble doing that, because seriously hypocrite much?

johnny galecki GIF

I don’t know if it’s because it’s translated from French, or because it’s so short (under 200 pages,) but the story is vague, sometimes confusing with clunky prose and lacked the depth that would have made this kind of vigilante serial killer story really gripping. Instead of feeling like a novella, it read more like a narcissistic monologue. I needed more levels in the plot to make it dynamic.

There is one scene where she is shooting people down in a park/lake area and that felt very Zodiac killer to me, which I liked, but it was too little, too late.

This should have been longer to fully realize the character, with more intricate plotting and more descriptive gore to make it visceral since the whole story revolves around her need to kill. The aspects of The Narrator that made her a bully herself should have been scrapped.

It’s not terrible, but it’s not good either.

🔪🔪🔪


“Let’s be honest: Who hasn’t fantasized about shooting someone in the face with a hunting rifle?”

One day, a thirteen-year-old girl decides to startle a classmate. Instead, she accidentally kills him.

And she likes it.

Over the years, she begins experimenting with murder. Her victims are, of course, people that deserve it: a careless driver, a CEO of an energy corporation that is destroying the planet, a rapist. Every crime scene is flawless — untraceable and made to look like an accident or suicide. But, as she sleepwalks through her day job and lives in a crummy apartment, one thing becomes increasingly clear: she needs more.

Because nothing compares to the thrill of violent retribution.

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