My Pet Mystery
My Pet Serial Killer
Michael J. Seidlinger
Do you ever feel like you’re simply too content with life? Do you ever sit in some majestic club, with the love of your life, with all questions answered, with a million dollar ride valet-parked outside, an estate valued in the millions awaiting your return, completely satisfied with your situation and who you are but you’re still asking, why am I so happy?
These sentences form the beginning of an inner-narrative that weaves through the pages of Michael J. Seidlinger’s My Pet Serial Killer. The voice of an unidentified narrator asking: is there more? The question seems shallow on its surface, but it posits a concern that is a cornerstone of the human condition: the problem of abiding loneliness, a nagging isolation, and what to do of it? Do we temper it through adventure as the narrator seems to suggest––seeking a new experience or event meant to hold off the predictability and boredom that a life of complete contentment promises? Or does the question tap into something else altogether? Is this yearning for something beyond the banal, the ordinary, merely the first step in unlocking a desire that is at once darker and less opaque?
With My Pet Serial Killer, Seidlinger has written a book that functions, in equal parts, as crime novel, meditation on the American thriller film aesthetic, and sly critique of intimacy and romance in the 21st century. Seidlinger creates a world where we are privy to a bevy of emotional stimuli: sensual text messages bounced through smart phones; courtships built around social media or in the clandestine recesses of darkened night clubs; the bubbly lift of designer drugs at the onset of an intimate encounter; the quick, sterile death as a substitute for sexual fulfillment; the joy attained after a blinking cursor in a chat room morphs into a message from a potential mate; the heartache of witnessing the total control of a person through the threat of harm as they inflict irreparable harm on another. These images mingle and converge unpredictably; Seidlinger crafts a landscape that can only be navigated viscerally, if at all.
How many people really know each other?
See them together, and what do they want?
What do they really want?
This is the story of Claire Wilkinson, a forensics graduate student, who is obsessed with staving off loneliness through the most direct means possible: through the utter possession––mind and body––of her mate. Claire isn’t looking for a potential partnership. Her aim is to take total ownership of another person, to discover them––at their most intimate and vulnerable––in hopes of gaining a proprietary access to them at their core. This dynamic––the search for a life that can be pared down and ripped apart, and then rebuilt with the detritus that remains, until all that is left of a person may as well be all that there ever was––is the essence of this work, and what imbues the work with a singular and appealing energy. Claire cases parties and lounges, searching for her “type”––a man who is confident and endowed with a superior mental acuity, a cerebral grit, and filled with “fight,” but who may also be broken down and reshaped at her whim. The paradox at the core of the “fighter,” and Claire’s fixation with finding and ultimately possessing him reveals much about her character.
He was the one I’d been searching for.
I was someone he’d never met before. He’d met his match.
Would he satisfy me like I’d satisfy him?
I wondered if he knew what he was getting himself into.
Claire finds her type in Victor Hent, popularized by local media as the “Gentleman Killer,” a serial murderer who seduces and traps his victims through sheer force of will and sexual magnetism. The Gentleman Killer is described by Claire as having “slicked back hair,” a “professional demeanor,” and “not a single shred of self-consciousness.” Upon their first meeting, in a dimly lit dance hall, she watches as he carts away a stream of attractive women, with little more than a scant smattering of words and a welcoming arm to lead the way, to locations unknown, as a trio of male patrons look on in admiration and astonishment. Her interest is piqued, and she brings the killer home with her, where he discovers that she has outfitted her apartment in ways that make it a domain uniquely fitted to his needs. It will become as much a part of his work––the sadistic and sexualized murder of women––as any of the other tools he uses to complete his bloody and gruesome acts.
There is a mystery that carries the reader headlong into the depths of this novel––what is the motive for Claire, a budding intellectual and rising star in her graduate program, to risk her freedom in order to assist Victor Hent in the act of ritualistic murder? And also there is the “Mystery” directly referenced in its pages. Of this latter Mystery, Seidlinger writes:
No matter what the show’s about, everyone ends up traveling. It’s a mystery that anyone knows what the hell’s going on this early in the narrative but you have to keep up with it. You’ve got to be patient and observant until the mystery unfolds.
Keep on driving until it all makes sense.
Some drive until the road ends. Some turn around and try learning a different road. Some never find a place with their name on it. They commit to theories that speak of a life that only ends up coiled around mystery.
It’s always a matter of having grown too comfortable, too confused, for the people and places shared. Everyone becomes part of a mystery that can’t be solved.
These passages sprout throughout the book, part of the inner narrative that shimmies around the main storyline of Claire and her Gentleman Killer. They possess a lyric quality, addressing an unseen audience, and serve as part slasher flick aside, part backbone to the meat that comprises the greater story of the novel.
The mystery surrounding Claire clouds the pages of this book like a fog––something seen and felt by the reader, but always slightly beyond their grasp. Seidlinger does offer clues, as when Claire states: “The mystery will consume everyone and I’m the only one that’ll known every inch and angle. I’ll have seen everything as it turned into common knowledge. I’ll have been there, telling him what to clear and what to keep. And I’ll be saying to him every line that no one else will hear.” Throughout the work, Claire strives to remake her killer into an object of her desire––a perfect murderer. In objectifying the killer, she strips away his humanity, reducing him to a tool of flesh and blood, a workhorse for her greater agenda. She is “master” and he is “pet.” The more dependent the killer becomes on Claire, the less he is able to exercise free will. Some would say the killer relinquished all rights to humanity once he began to silence and snuff out the lives of others, and they are most likely correct in this assessment. Though, in the killer’s reduction, he takes on a new form––middleman, conduit––for Claire. As she takes on total ownership of the killer, she also takes on ownership of his crimes. She is a murderer once removed. In banishing the banality from her own life, she becomes what she once only hoped to control. The lines between master and pet are blurred, erased, and sewn together––what remains is an altogether different animal. Michael J. Seidlinger has written a book that warps and upends human desire, taking it to places that defy categorization, until all that is left is mystery. And within the pages of My Pet Serial Killer, mystery is the only thing that is ever certain.
My Pet Serial Killer is available through Amazon.