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Love in the Time of Serial Killers


Love in the Time of Serial Killers

Phoebe Walsh is used to being alone. She hasn’t really had many close friends since her divorced parents’ custody agreement fell apart when she was a teenager. That’s when she stopped being very close with her younger brother, Conner, since he stayed with their dad full-time while she lived with their mom.

Fortunately, Phoebe is in graduate school for literature, one of those realms where being antisocial is considered not only acceptable, but also beneficial in some ways. Even though there’s probably never a good time to have one’s parent die, the sudden passing of Phoebe’s dad (in the aisles of the grocery store, no less) means that she needs to spend the summer in Florida packing up his house to get ready to sell it, rather than at her university in North Carolina. But, Phoebe figures, this will be the perfect way for her to find time and space to finally finish her dissertation, which focuses on issues of authorship and context in true crime stories and books.

"LOVE IN THE TIME OF SERIAL KILLERS is a fun, sexy and super-smart debut. I can’t wait to see what Alicia Thompson has in store for us next!"

If there’s one side effect to this area of academic focus (besides the fact that she had a bit of a challenge finding a dissertation advisor), it’s that Phoebe’s tendency to mistrust everyone and be on the lookout for serial killers wherever she goes has only grown in recent years. So when she sees the mild-mannered (and undeniably cute) guy next door carrying mysterious packages into his garage late at night, and when he seems a little too eager to help her move furniture around, she’s convinced that her life might be on the verge of turning into one of those true crime books she’s always reading.

However, as the weeks go by, Phoebe realizes that Sam is actually very sweet and genuinely kind --- he’s just a little shy. She surprises herself by enjoying reconnecting with her brother and helping him plot the best way to propose to his long-time girlfriend. She even reunites with her one-time best friend, now the local librarian --- and she grows fond of a neighborhood stray cat, even though she never could have imagined herself living with a pet of any kind. What is happening to Phoebe during this one strange summer? And can she get over her fundamental mistrust of, well, all of humanity in order to let herself fall in love?

In some ways, LOVE IN THE TIME OF SERIAL KILLERS reminded me of Roni Loren’s WHAT IF YOU & ME, which is about a horror novelist who similarly sees danger lurking behind every closed door. Although Loren’s protagonist is recovering from harrowing trauma, Phoebe’s backstory is not quite as dramatic but is no less compelling. Her summer in Florida forces her to contend with a depressive episode from her teens and how the unresolved issues from that time have continued to shape the way she approaches (or runs away from) relationships as an adult. Readers will also enjoy the glimpse into Phoebe’s research process and the steps she’s taking to establish herself in academia, even as she figures out how to balance all of the new priorities in her life.

LOVE IN THE TIME OF SERIAL KILLERS is a fun, sexy and super-smart debut. I can’t wait to see what Alicia Thompson has in store for us next!

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on August 19, 2022

Love in the Time of Serial Killers
by Alicia Thompson