THEY NEVER LEARN by Layne Fargo
Gallery Scout Press, October 13, 2020
They Never Learn was the most fun I’ve had with a book in ages. It’s far from perfect (it notably leans into an obsession with the glam femme fatale in a way that wouldn’t have been out of place with mid-2000s feminist media), but I’m just going to leave that criticism at the door because I had such a damn good time reading this.
It follows Scarlett, a professor-turned-vigilante serial killer who spends her evenings tracking down and murdering men who have abused women. We also follow a student at her university, Carly, a shy 18-year-old who becomes infatuated with her roommate. Their chapters alternate, each a short, 3-5 page segment that confidently leaps from one perspective to the next, daring the reader to keep up. This book is a page-turner, first and foremost, and it does a spectacular job at cohering into something that you can devour in a single sitting if you’re so inclined.
This book is so clever, so unexpected, so deliciously indulgent. Scarlett is a brilliant creation, and Carly’s chapters work to ground the novel and develop a character whose quotidian anxieties you can sympathize with, while Scarlett’s chapters amp up the stakes. Highly recommended to all thriller fans, with the caveat of there being a significant trigger warning for sexual assault.
I won an advanced copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway; thanks Gallery Scout Press. All thoughts are my own.