Review | Psycho Killers in Love – C.T. Phipps

About the Book

What if all the villains of slasher movies were real? What if the movies made about them were just adaptations of real-life killers with supernatural powers? This is a fact known to William and Carrie because their father, Billy the Undying, was one of the worst slashers of all time. So much so that they’ve spent the past decade in an asylum out of fear they’d end up just like him. Escaping, the two have decided to form a new life on the road. Except, a chance encounter in a dingy diner introduces William to the girl of his dreams.

Too bad she’s a girl on a mission to kill all slashers. But maybe the best way to catch a supernatural serial killer is with another pair of them.

266 pages (kindle)
Published on August 25, 2020
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You know, I’ve put off really reading a C.T. Phipps book for a long time. I’m not proud to admit that, but it’s true. I actively avoided it, and the reason why isn’t really what you’d expect. You see, I had a feeling these books were great. Everyone who has read them, that I know, has loved them. I wasn’t reluctant about quality in the least. I know Phipps knows how to tell a story.

My problem is, I hate comedy. I mean, hate it. If you tell me “that’s comedy” or “that’s funny” I’m gone so fast you’ll think I actually disappeared. And it’s not that I don’t like laughing, because I do, I just seem to only like the driest humor in the world. Everyone else in the room will be like, “this is boring and not funny, why are we here” and I’ll be the only person there laughing so hard I am crying.

Any other kind of humor, though? No.. It just doesn’t work. Terry Pratchett is basically the only fantasy that makes me laugh that I can stomach for any period of time.

So, that’s why I’ve avoided Phipps’s books. He’s a friend of mine (so know that going in), and I just knew I’d hate his books because I hate comedic fantasy unless it’s really something special. 

Anyway, I finally decided it was time. Phipps had sent me a bunch of ARCs over the year, but with the new aim of my website to shine a light on books that have fewer than 100 ratings on Amazon, I went through his catalogue and found one that fit the bill, and was fairly recent. Here we are, with Psycho Killers in Love.

The United States of Monsters, the world where this is set, is truly a thing to behold. It’s our world, but maybe a step to the left. In this universe, monsters, gods, supernatural are as normal as anything else. Vampires exist and everyone knows about them. Eldrich horrors are a thing. Monsters and Lovecraftian elements abound. It’s dark and gruesome, with plenty of violence, blood, and gory elements to keep it real. The characters, specifically in this book, are morally gray, which really pleases me.

What interested me was the twist Phipps gave all of this. In Psycho Killers in Love, a book I expected to be some revived 1990’s slasher-fest like Scream, we end up with that, but also a bit more. There’s surprising depth here. In this book, slashers are presented in a way that truly questions who they are, as well as their role in the wider world. Supernatural, and superhuman in some respects, Phipps turns the table and asks the reader, what if killing wasn’t an option? What if it’s something DNA deep that you can’t escape from?

The DNA element was specifically interesting to me. So often, these people are portrayed as insane, or flawed in some horrible way. However, William and Carrie are, instead, imbued with slasher DNA which makes them crave bloodshed. This craving goes alongside some cool supernatural abilities. Instead of being evil and really leaning into this genetic makeup, they use theirs for vigilante-type operations… taking out the trash, if you will. 

Then, as the book progresses, Phipps goes one step further. Is it bad if you’re killing someone who is inarguably repugnant? For example, if you’ve got a slasher, and they kill a child-killer, for example, are they truly evil? Does that negate the act of killing itself? 

And so you have this interesting mix of elements that allows Phipps to not only create this truly nuanced, vibrant, captivating and dark world, and fill it full of characters that span the gamut of morality and duty. In this particular book, he takes the 1990’s Scream-like killers, and ends up making them, in his own unique way, the good guys in their bad story.

(Full disclosure: I’m saying 1990’s Scream because that’s literally the only slasher-type movie I’ve seen that I can compare it to.)

Told with three points of view (Carrie, Will, and Nancy), readers get a well-rounded view of the events that transpire in this book. All of them are nuanced and layered, with dimension and texture that surprised me. What really got me excited, though, were the emotional notes, not just throughout the book, but in the characters themselves. I truly felt for these people and their tragic lives. In certain scenes in the book, a punch of emotion would hit me hard, and I’d just sit back and think, “wow…” 

Nancy came along a bit later in the book, but man, did I feel for her. She was a powerful character with a backstory that was used to its greatest effect. An Artemis, or a person who can kill (is that the right word?) the Psycho Killer gene, she finds a love interest in Will, and that whole bag of potatoes was not only interesting and well-crafted, but seriously was one of the absolutely highlights of this book. I just loved how Phipps took all these characters, and put them in situations that stretched them beyond the bounds of what they’d typically consider, and then sort of let them go and see what happened.

I’m 90% sure if I watched movies (I’m really making myself look boring here, aren’t I? I hate movies and comedy. Way to go, Sarah.) I’d probably pick up a lot of homages to slasher movies in this book. It has that feel to it, like Phipps not only loved the story he was telling, but he wanted to lean a bit on the type of movies and books that made something like this come to fruition. If you’re not as boring as I am, you’ll probably see a lot of that here, and it will likely delight you.

Plot and pacing were spot on, as you’d expect from someone who has written as many books as Phipps has. Dude knows his craft, that’s for sure. If I had one quibble, the ending felt a bit too easy, but I also really liked the open nature of it, and how he left himself just enough room to revisit these characters and this specific corner of his world if he so chooses, and I hope he does. 

I know if you’ve come this far, you’re thinking this is a serious book and not a funny one so what the hell was I so afraid of? The fact is, there is levity here, though not really the way I expected (was afraid of). Every dark scene is tinged with something that makes it just light enough, whether it’s a quippy one-liner, or a scene that feels campy but is effectively so, or just… something, and I really enjoyed that as well, and how it balanced out the book as a whole. While I did (obviously) glom on to the more serious, layered aspects of this book, I also really did appreciate the lighter stuff, levity, and laughable moments a lot more than I expected I would.

So where does this leave us? 

Reader, I went into this thinking I’d hate it. I thought I’d read this book, and have to pretend I didn’t read this book, and then that would suck because Phipps is a genuinely nice guy and I hate doing that to anyone. So yeah, I went into this expecting to hate every second of it, not because of the author but because this just isn’t really my bag of oats. Instead, what I got was a book I truly enjoyed. It was a quick read, with a ton of heart, a lot of darkness, and just enough light to balance it all out. 

I’m sorry it took me so long to read it.

And, reader, here’s the irony of all of this. I’d put off reading his books for so long, that once I read this one I was so impressed, I immediately went on to read I Was a Teenage Weredeer. I haven’t finished it yet, but I’m really enjoying it so far.

Moral of the story: Make sure you try the things you don’t think you’ll like, because, like Psycho Killers in Love, they might end up surprising you.

4/5 stars