WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER by Max Allan Collins

Publication date: September 17th, 2013
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

When you’re a 15 year-old girl, life is supposed to be pretty easy. The biggest concerns in your life should be if Jimmy from math likes you or if you and Sally show up to English class wearing the same outfit. Because that would be the WORST! Jordan Rivera is this typical 15 year-old girl, but then her life takes a turn and changes forever.

WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER by Max Allan Collins opens with Jordan avoiding homework and pining for the kicker for the high school football team, Mark. She hears a disturbance in her house and finds that a madman has killed her mother, father, and brother. Jordan’s left to live a life with bigger concerns than Mark and the school dance.

Jordan spends the next 10 years in an institution, talking to no one. A news story about a family killed in a similar fashion to hers prompts Jordan to break her silence and leave the institution. She works with her Victim’s Support Group to track down the killer. The support group puts together pieces of a puzzle that the local police, including a rookie detective working the case on his own, have not been solve.

Even though the book centers on Jordan and her quest for revenge and justice, the supporting characters are well developed. The reader understands why the members of the support group want to find the killer. There’s the well known author who’s family was slaughtered while he ran a quick errand for his wife; the young man who lost his family to a fire; and the older woman that found her brother and his wife after an apparent murder-suicide.

Collins and his frequent collaborator, Matthew V. Clemens, have created a killer that lurks in the background of the book. I haven’t experienced a character like this since I read about the Tooth Fairy killer in RED DRAGON by Thomas Harris. You don’t know when Jordan and her crew will figure out the killer’s true identity or when he’ll strike again. Collins adds to the killer’s creepiness with chapters written from the killer’s perspective.

Hold on to your hat because WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER moves quickly. The thriller’s action starts on page one and doesn’t stop until the very last page. You won’t have time to worry about Jimmy from math class while you’re reading this book!

Kate Malmon