A serial killer targeting gay men is on the loose in Rick R. Reed's thriller titled IM. The killer, as the title suggests, picks his victims through instant messages in gay online chat rooms. I think that this setup would have been interesting a decade ago, when the chat room scene was a novelty, but today it seems a bit quaint. Nevertheless, the writing is very strong, and the plot is handled well enough to be interesting, providing genuine twists and turns, managing to rescue the limping concept.
The first twist comes shortly after Ed Comparetto, the detective pursuing the case, gets himself fired because of a witness who apparently does not exist. Ed heads to a gay bar to take some time off to relax. A beer arrives, courtesy of a secret admirer, who turns out to be the non-existent witness. This is good plotting, and it’s a bit of a surprise to find it in a POD novel. As a result, things spin out of control, and a genuine question results—who is this witness, and why the game of hide and seek?
The heart of great plotting is the ability on the writer’s part to create suspense and tension. Reversals of expectation and surprises are at the center of this approach. IM has some interesting reversals, as when Ed calls the number of the witness, expecting to finally talk to this mysterious figure, only to get someone he does not expect, this reversal further increasing the suspense of the story. These reversals are, for the most part, interesting and genuinely add to the story suspense. At some point, however, Ed and the killer seem at a standstill, neither doing much to complicate the plans and goals of the other.
Besides the relatively good plot, the book gives us a glimpse into the gay culture: the online games, the obsessions, the loneliness, and the desperate search for love that never seems to work out. There is some gay sexual content here, so the book may not appeal all readers.