My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Joe Middleton has a lot on his plate, to say the least. Arrested for a whole slew of murders he says he can’t remember, Joe—a.k.a. the Christchurch Carver—has been in jail for the last year awaiting trial, charged with the task of convincing the psychiatrists interviewing him that he wasn’t of sound mind and can’t be blamed for what he did. And, incredibly, that’s the least of his worries.
That’s because there’s no shortage of people who like the idea of seeing Joe dead, some of whom are on the inside with him. On the outside, there’s Melissa, Joe’s accomplice in one of the murders, who plans on shooting him on his way to the courthouse before he gets a chance to start talking. To get himself out of this epic mess, Joe has a desperate plan involving the disgraced ex-detective who put Joe away and a television psychic who’s looking to get rich. It’s a long shot, but it had better work—because the people of New Zealand are voting to bring back the death penalty, and the Christchurch Carver is just the poster boy to make it happen.
I received an advance copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
When I heard that Joe Victim was a followup to The Cleaner, I could hardly contain myself. As you’ve seen from my previous reviews of Cleave books, I’m a big fan. While I’m interested in hearing about what happens to Tate (and hopefully the next book picks up that story line), I did wonder what happened to Joe after he was arrested.
Joe Victim picks up where The Cleaner left off, after his arrest and before his sentencing. We find Joe in prison, vilified as the Christ Church Carver. The City of ChristChurch is in heavy negotiation to bring back the Death Penalty for — and because of — Joe Middleton. Never fear, because Joe is sure that he can either convince a jury that he’s innocent of these murders, or get off scot free because his girlfriend Melissa X (another serial killer, isn’t that sweet? Who says opposites attract?) will rescue him.
Joe Victim is a long, long tale of Joe’s year in prison, his sessions with the psychiatrist who helps him reveal more of his past and how he came to be so psychotic and yet so… normal; his daily run ins with not only the guards but fellow prisoners–men who Joe feels are beneath him ( We see a recurring role in Caleb Cole from The LaughterHouse, who is more evil in Joe Victim than he was in The Laughterhouse).
About half of the novel follows Melissa X, who is a whole another bag of nuts. She and Joe had a brief tryst before he was sent to prison. Cleave’s prose leads us down one path of believing that Melissa wants him dead, but the story twists into something wholly different once her real plan is revealed.
Did I mention Joe Victim is long? Well, it is. Nearly 500 pages, some of which I was hoping I could skim. Unfortunately I felt like there was something important in every scene, so I took my time and read it all, and had things transpired as I thought they would, I would have given it three stars for being too predictable.
But when is Paul Cleave ever predictable? Joe is diabolical, psychotic and just a little bit paranoid. What an unfortunate combination.
Though I liked The Cleaner much better, I enjoyed Joe Victim immensely once the story got going. I’m hoping Cleave’s next book picks up on Theodore Tate’s story. DYING (okay not really!) to know what happened!