The Ax

Donald E. Westlake, Author Mysterious Press $30 (273p) ISBN 978-0-89296-587-8
Westlake is a consummate pro who can deliver both the cheerful zaniness of the Dortmunder novels and thoroughly convincing noir. The Ax is one of his darkest efforts, a mesmerizing chiller. It takes a familiar plight--Burke Devore, a middle-level executive at a paper company, has been downsized out of what he had imagined was a secure lifetime job--and gives it a terrifying twist. Not content quietly to abandon his decently prosperous existence, Devore searches out the ideal job at the ideal company and then identifies a half-dozen unemployed potential rivals for the spot and sets out to murder them one by one. Devore is quietly methodical, but not all the killings go quite as planned: in one, he has to kill a wife as well; another turns out to be much messier than anticipated; and then, of course, there looms the final necessary slaughter, of the man who holds the desired job. And will the police figure out what links these mysterious killings before Devore has achieved his goal? Writing with deadpan style, Westlake makes Devore's rage utterly believable. What he can't quite manage, however, is to make a convincing serial killer out of someone who is in most respects so normal, even decent and thoughtful. But the suspense is tight as a steel coil, the background sociology is impeccably developed and the book should have upper-level downsizers trembling in their Guccis at the thought of the hideous anguish they are unleashing on the land. Major ad/promo. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/02/1997
Release date: 06/01/1997
Genre: Fiction
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