Book Report: The Night Spider by John Lutz (2003)

I inherited this book from my aunt; she paid fifty cents for it at a yard sale, probably to resell on eBay. She would have gotten a pretty good deal on a common thriller had she been inclined to read it. Hey, I liked it well enough. As some of you know, John Lutz is a St. Louis writer who sets his Thomas Horn novels in New York City. I thought it would be a fitting read for a St. Louis writer visiting New York City.

Thomas Horn has to come back to the force to investigate a serial killer who kills young, attractive, single women in high rise apartments by coming in through their windows. That’s the plot, and it’s a serviceable book. But I not only read this book for the enjoyment, but also the do nots I can apply to my own writing, and I picked up a big set from this book:

  • Do not spend a lot of time, or start the book, with an intimate profile of victims. Their problems and frustrations will ultimately prove meaningless as they’re killed imaginatively. Now, I have a lot of problems and frustrations, and I don’t need the perspective that they’re all meaningless because I might be killed imaginatively. Also, I think the trick wastes space and the reader’s time.
  • Avoid describing characters by saying they look like celebrities. That’s a cheap shortcut. Who cares if the problematic and frustrated by (allegedly) attractive young woman looks like Helen Hunt? In a couple of pages she’ll be deader than Helen Hunt’s career.
  • The psycho super Special Forces/black ops antagonist. Come on, that’s been low-hanging fruit since World War I or World War II and accelerated by Viet Nam. How about a couple psycho super special vegans for once?
  • Grafting on a Part II as an afterthought so to involve the rest of a special forces team who murder to cover for the psycho? Don’t do it.

Even with those lessons, it’s a decent enough book. If you’re into suspense or St. Louis authors, you could do worse.