An Absolute Gentleman–R.M. Kinder

An Absolute Gentleman–R.M. Kinder

Arthur Blume is a mediocre creative writing professor–and an accomplished serial murderer. The novel takes the form of his “true record” after he has been caught and is in prison; Blume is outraged that he is depicted as a monster even though he calmy states that he has killed 17 people and attempts to set the record straight. Alternating between his childhood with a psychotic mother and the story that precipitates his being arrested, it’s well-paced and thoroughly creepy. Blume is a cold, punctilious man, yet we still have sympathy for him. Ironically, it is Kinder’s success in depicting him that brings her into dangerous territory; it invites comparisons to that ultimate in sympathetic villainy, Humbert Humbert. And of course, one loses. His voice sometimes falters too, particularly when it comes to talking about women, and I couldn’t help but imagine the author sitting at a desk at a loss for words. Indeed, the footnote explaining the typical behaviors of serial killers shed a better light than his own explanation. But credit where credit is due: It must be hard to get into character, and 90 percent of the time, this is convincing.

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