Dee. Enn. Eff.

That's Bookstagram-speak for Did Not Finish.

Not everyone can be Bill Pronzini, Joe R. Lansdale, or F. Paul Wilson, can they?

Caroline Kepnes accomplished something unique with her debut novel, You. She won a lot of fans with this turned-on-its-head stalker novel. Stephen King loved it, and so did I. You is a razor-sharp satire that skillfully plays with notions of protagonist and antagonist. Joe Goldberg is a New York City killer and a predator of women. Yet Kepnes makes it hard not to sympathize with him. A teeny, tiny bit, anyway.

Who doesn't fantasize of inflicting violence on trendy hipster types? You is as funny as it is chilling.

There was a sequel, Hidden Bodies. A good book, if not as impactful as You. Hidden Bodies shreds the image of Hollywood players with increased satire and outrage. Kepnes ups the stakes, even if the Joe Goldberg character isn't as provocative as in the first book.

Then there was You Love Me, in which our anti-hero Joe gains employment at a library. Again Caroline Kepnes savagely depicts hip culture, but this time instead of New York or Southern Cal, it's an arty small town. I liked You Love Me, but returns were diminishing by this point.

You know what I really liked? Providence. This one is a stand-alone, and I think it's easily the best book Caroline Kepnes has delivered to her readers to date. It's a Lovecraft-inspired book that manages to not be heavily influenced by old H.P.L.

Sadly, people want more of the same. I don't think Providence sold like the You/Joe books. The series is, as you know, a successful TV show. It started on Lifetime and migrated over to Netflix. Which, due to all the bad press about Netflix in regard to the WGA strike, undoubtedly puts Caroline in a touchy spot. I don't envy her position at the moment.

Now there's For You and Only You, the latest in the Joe Goldberg cash cow machine. My hopes weren't exactly sky high, but I checked the book out from the library.

From the very beginning For You and Only You seemed forced. An air of desperation is in the pages. The satire too obvious, the targets too easy. Gone is the easy flow she commanded at the beginning of the series.

Sadly, I put For You and Only You down after twenty or thirty pages. Maybe it gets better, but I think I've had about enough of old Joe Goldberg. The teats are running dry on this bovine franchise.

I'm hoping for more books from the very talented Caroline Kepnes. It's highly possible she would like to kiss Joe goodbye. I wouldn't be surprised to hear her publisher insists she stick with him.

Caroline Kepnes is too good, too smart, to be stuck with Joe Goldberg forever. It's high time she got a restraining order against him.

Written by Mark Sieber

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