Just Killing Time

Just Killing Time

by Derek Van Arman, Jim Frangione

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This is the novel that was first bought by Simon & Schuster, then let go after blurbs from John le Carre and Joseph Wambaugh were found to be false. Readers curious about the fuss may be in for a disappointment. For Van Arman's book is mechanical, considerably overplotted and often clumsily and luridly written; it is the and considerably overplotted serial--the kind of serial-killer saga that can hardly fail to be moderately exciting but that seldom is fresh or original. Van Arman presents lengthy discussions of the serial-killer personality (often in awkward lecture form), and advances the seemingly absurd claim that more than a third of the population will encounter a psychopath at some point. Heroes Jack Scott and Frank Rivers are in pursuit mostly of the infamous ``devoid'' Zak Dorani, whom Scott has been hunting for decades, though a wealthy dental supply tycoon and his weird sidekick are also on the recreational killing trail. An adorable small boy who discovers a long-buried body places himself and his beautiful mother in danger. There is an elaborate subplot about the development of suburban Washington (Van Arman hates Bethesda with a passion) and a black township's destruction through arson, and a fey old black lady whose memories bring it all back. A gruesome climactic shootout set at the Lincoln Memorial takes care of the dental pair, but a more terrible vengeance--for that's what these policemen deal in--awaits Zak. Van Arman develops some suspense on occasion, but his book required much tighter editing and less swollen editorializing to work as the bloody crime thriller it means to be. 100,000 first printing; Literary Guild alternate. (June)
Library Journal - Library Journal
In the affluent suburbs of Washington, D.C., a killer strikes, leaving a mother and her two young daughters dead in their home. Nearby, a young boy digging in the ruins of an abandoned bowling alley finds the skeletal remains of a girl dead for many years. The discovery places Elmer Janson and his mother directly in the path of a vicious serial killer. That the two cases may be linked is the problem of federal agent Jack Scott, commander of ViCAT, the Violent Criminal Apprehension Team. Scott and his intriguing group of experts lead the reader into a stunning world of criminal pursuit where high tech computers analyze micro-behaviors, criminal profiles, and forensic patterns. Van Arman, who has actually helped develop techniques used by federal agencies to catch recreational or serial killers, provides a rare and powerful look into the realm of human monsters and the sure knowledge that they are real. Best seller material here. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/92.-- Jo Ann Vicarel, Cleveland Heights-University Heights P.L., Ohio
Kirkus Reviews
Van Arman, you'll recall, made headlines when he was accused of counterfeiting blurbs from John le Carr‚ and others about this, his first novel. Van Arman denied the charge—but if he did write the blurbs, he needn't have bothered: This exceptional thriller stands on its own as one of the most knowing and powerful explorations of serial killers and those who hunt them. At the center of the complex plot is Jack Scott, 56-year-old head of VICAT, a federal agency (based closely on the real-life VICAP) that tracks serial killers. Intensely dedicated, Scott proves a touchstone of decency for others as the gripping events unfold, as well as a fount of the fascinating serial-killer lore that braces the novel: e.g., that 99% are "recreational" killers, sane but devoid of emotion, who kill to stimulate the rush that true emotion brings. Scott hunts three such killers here: a pair of businessmen busy butchering their prey in Florida; and, centrally, Zak Dorani, a master serial killer who supposedly died 20 years ago in prison. Scott picks up Zak's trail when a boy living in Bethesda, Maryland—depicted as the sort of soulless suburb that's a perfect stalking ground for serial killers—unearths a skull with spikes in its head: the same sort of spikes that Zak used to kill with years before. Galvanized, Scott sets up a task force seconded by a local cop, an ex-Army assassin whose hotheadedness is a perfect counterpoint to Scott's cool. In scenes boiling with tension, the Florida killers (whom Scott eventually ties to Zak) go on a rampage: Zak stalks and kills; victims and their families agonize; and Scott and his team relentlessly chase their quarry—allclimaxing in a ferocious finale outside the Lincoln Memorial and a trapping of Zak that dispenses justice poetically and without mercy. Myriad subplots slacken the narrative a bit, but, still, this is an awesome entertainment: exciting, profoundly moving, and bristling with a fierce and frightening reality.

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Gale Group
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Audio Books Ser.

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