Literature / I Don't Want to Kill You

The final book in the first "John Cleaver" trilogy by Dan Wells, following I Am Not a Serial Killer and Mr. Monster. A second trilogy is on the way, starting with a novella and Interquel, Next of Kin, serving as a bridge between the first and second trilogies, and the first book in the new series being The Devils Only Friend.

John Wayne Cleaver is still not a serial killer, because to be a serial killer you have to kill people. Of course, his first action after successfully defeating Agent Forman was to use his cell phone to contact one of his associates and announce that he plans to kill her - even though he has no idea what she might be able to do to him, or force him to do to his family...

What's more, he wasn't expecting Nobody to come with backup.

This book has examples of:

  • Betty and Veronica - Brooke and Marci.
  • Bound and Gagged - John has a brief moment of imagining Marci this way.
  • Chekhov's Gun - The Handyman arrives at the same time as a chain of apparent suicides.
  • Demonic Possession - John and Father Erikson discuss this as a possibility, although it's only partly accurate.
  • Dumb Blonde, Brainy Brunette: Double Subverted. Brooke (blonde) is generally described as more of the smart and sensitive loner archetype as well as being decribed as tall and willowy. Marci (brunette) is set up as a Lovable Alpha Bitch and is described as more of a voluptuous bombshell. In this book we get a better look at Marci and learn that she is, if anything, more intelligent than Brooke and certainly more empathic and insightful.
  • Driven to Suicide - Nobody's victims. Nobody herself, for that matter, recurringly.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas - Assuming that we can qualify John as bad, this trope applies. Although he doesn't actually realize it until after she dies.
  • First Girl Wins - Zigzagged. At first glance the novel appears to play the trope straight, although in this case "wins" doesn't mean "gets the guy" so much as "lives out the trilogy", but in terms of who is John's real love interest this is averted; it's Marci, his second girlfriend, that really earns his love. However, John never stops focusing on Brooke even when she's dating other guys and he's supposedly happy with his own new girlfriend, and Nobody observes that he's had experiences with Brooke that "Marci never had" with him.
  • Heroic Sacrifice - Mrs. Cleaver
  • Hollywood Silencer - Played straight with The Handyman's gun where John doesn't even know it's being fired until holes appear in the car trunk.
  • Internal Monologuing Is A Free Action: Throughout the series, but particularly in this book, John is very prone to pausing in the middle of a conversation and monologuing for paragraphs before returning to the conversation. He is, once, called on it when someone on the phone asks him why he's being so quiet.
  • Like You Would Really Do It - Invoked by Nobody. John wouldn't really kill Brooke's body simply in order to kill Nobody, too would he? Yes, actually, he would.
  • Mama Bear - Mrs. Cleaver.
  • Police Are Useless - Averted. John gets quite a lot of information out of Marci's father. Agent Ostler turns out to be trying to hunt down Nobody, too; and if John had known she was trustworthy quite a bit of death could have been averted.
  • Red Herring
    • For the characters as well as the readers. When the Handyman arrives in Clayton John assumes he must be the demon and spends most of the book trying to profile him based on that assumption.
    • Similarly, the revelation that the Handyman mutilated the eyes of his most recent victim right after John had a discussion about another serial killer with a fixation on eyes with Marci and her dad.
    • The phone calls that the suicide victims spam out to the next target the night before their suicide suggest a method of transmission, but are actually Nobody trying to reach out in her loneliness.
  • Reluctant Psycho - John will get worse before he gets better...
  • Sacrificial Lion - Marci, and Mrs. Cleaver.
  • Sociopathic Hero - John Wayne Cleaver. Averted by the end, as in grieving the death of his mother and of Marci he realizes he does have the capacity to love after all.
  • Stalker with a Crush - John hasn't entirely gotten over this tendency. It also turns out to be Nobody's entire modus operandi.
  • Taking You with Me - Done by Mrs. Cleaver, to Nobody.
  • Talking to the Dead - John to Marci at the end
  • Talking the Monster to Death: John successfully convinces the Handyman, who has him at gunpoint, to shoot himself instead.