This is the latest review (of Blood Related) by William Malmborg. When you’re done reading, please make sure to check out William’s very cool website here.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Nurture or nature? Anyone involved in such a debate would probably have a hard time pinning an answer to this question when concerning the Cunningham twins Charlie and Caleb. Brought up by abusive parents, one of whom is a savage serial killer that often encouraged his children to take part in his horrible crimes; one could easily argue that the two were nurtured into the monsters they eventually become. At the same time it’s hard to say nature didn’t play a part because how else could one explain the generational bloodlust the Cunningham family displays, bloodlust that seems to have begun with Charlie and Caleb’s grandfather? Whatever the cause, the result is a pair of psychotic serial killers who show no empathy for their fellow human beings; serial killers who actually view themselves as separated and on a higher plane of existence than mankind and thus entitled to do whatever they wish to them.
As noted above, it begins early on for the twins, usually with over the top physical punishments that would easily knock any sense of goodness from within the mind of a growing child. After that came the introduction to murder as their father brought female victims back to the basement and allowed his children to watch and sometimes take part in the torture and eventual slaying of the captive or captives. However, the act of murder was not limited to the basement or even the house. Lacking any control on his impulses, their father will also sometimes commit murder while the family is out and about, a situation that then calls for disposable of evidence and the cleaning up of the crime scene. Such moments are a ‘hands on’ learning experience for Caleb and Charlie, one that will prove invaluable later in life as each matures into individual serial killers. Of course this isn’t to say suspicion isn’t leveled on the father. The local police — and one man in particular — are pretty sure the father is responsible for the crimes, ones that eventually become attributed to a killer known as the Dockside Ripper. Being able to nail him down as the Dockside Ripper, however, isn’t easy, which in turn allows the body count, and the education of two budding serial killers, to grow.
Of the twins, Caleb seems the most level headed, which in turn makes him the scarier of the two when it comes to the two serial killers. That said, Caleb does have some impulse control issues just like his father, which sometimes causes close calls with the police. At one point it also puts him in conflict with his brother due to the slaying of a young woman that Charlie wanted to keep alive, his desire to cause chaos and the eventual breakdown of civilization leading to a different type of torture and murder than what Caleb usually takes part it. The question is will the two be able to work together to the end that Charlie wants, while also allowing for Caleb’s desires to be realized, or will the two come into such conflict that they destroy each other. Also, will the detective obsessed with their family and the savagery it displays be able to put an end to their reign of terror, or will he just become another victim?
Mostly told from the point of view of Caleb, but also occasionally from some of the other individuals within the story, Blood Related by William Cook is a wonderfully twisted tale of two serial killers who have no redeeming value whatsoever, yet are somehow fun to read about. In fact, not only are they fun to read about, but at times you find yourself actually rooting for them, which can be very unsettling. Equally unsettling is the disgust one starts to feel toward the father and Charlie, yet not toward Caleb despite his being just as ruthless as the other two. Adding to the story and its authentic feel were the newspaper accounts, books segments, and clinical observations layered throughout the story, all of which had the feel of being real documents one would find in such media forms. Having seen and used these types of documents in the real world when studying such subjects in school, I can honestly say the author nailed it when penning his own, and had I read them as part of a case-study I would have assumed them to be genuine. I also would have been horrified to know that two such killers had done the things they did for as long as they did, and that a family had had produced three generations of serial killers.
Needless to say, I found Blood Related to be an excellent read, one by an author who hopefully will be releasing more works in the near future. Until then readers will have to keep their bloodlust sated with the tale of Caleb Cunningham and his twin brother Charlie. I promise, if this type of story is your thing you will not be disappointed.