The Venus Complex, a debut novel by Barbie Wilde, is something of a mixed bag. It is about Michael Friday, a professor of art history, who embarks on becoming a serial killer, partly to win the affections of Elene, a psychologist who ends up getting involved with investigating his murders. The overall story is engrossing, especially it is told through Michaelís perspective. He is everything you could hope for in a fictional serial killer. He is misanthropic, methodical, and funny in a messed-up way. A part of what makes him terrifying is that he is an example of the informed killer, a murderer who has studied true crime extensively to use to his advantage. Like most of these guys, he is obsessed with sex. Think of him as combination of American Psycho and Mr. Brooks, although he is more down to earth than Patrick Bateman.

If anything, the novel is terrifying in its probability. Michaelís rise as a psychopath is believable as he himself is believable. He is angry and frustrated with life, which is understandable. He also wants to make his mark on the world and to be unique. That is understandable too. Unfortunately, his feelings and ambition are directed towards murder and sexual sadism, so it is disturbing if you end up identifying with him at all. In this sense, Wilde is adept in creating true terror by holding up the mirror to our darker side. The sex in the book, however, is copious to the point of being excessive, so if youíre bothered by that, then you should read something else. The amount of sexual detail could be due to Michaelís psychotic obsession, but the sex scenes are repetitious and if anything, results in diminishing the novelís climax. All in all, this novel is a decent start for Wilde, but itís ultimately up to your personal taste.

Review by Nick Montelongo

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