John Wayne Cleaver is not your average teen-aged sociopath. Yes, he's had an obsession with serial killers since he learned at age eight about his accidental namesake John Wayne Gacy. He's above average in intelligence, and has a childhood history of bed-wetting, fascination with fire, and the torture of small animals.
The thing is, John Wayne Cleaver really doesn't want to become a serial killer himself, so he's worked out a whole system for tamping down his impulses. He's got rules. He keeps his monster, as he refers to it, locked up deep inside by forcing himself to interact in a more or less normal fashion with those around him, by not allowing himself to indulge in obsessive behaviors, and, most especially, by not allowing himself to obsess over death and its beauty. He even helps out the nice old couple next door by shoveling snow and running errands for them.
It doesn't help that he and his mother live above the mortuary that she and her sister run. It helps even less when a brutal murder happens in town and it's immediately obvious to John that it may very well be the work of a serial killer.
The deaths keep coming and John keeps fighting his demons. How appropriate, then, when he realizes that the killer is not really a serial killer per se--at least, not in the traditional sense of the term--but rather, a demon in human guise who kills when he needs to grab a kidney or set of lungs to replace its own failing organs. He's both overjoyed and terrified when he realizes that he can actually do good by giving into his evil impulses by stopping the supernatural killer in his town. But at what cost to himself does he unleash the beast within?
Dan Wells has created a compelling hero in John Wayne Cleaver. His first person narrative is clever and intelligent, and his struggles with the demons within (and without) are moving and sometimes funny.
2 months ago