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The New York Times bestselling coauthor of Gwendy’s Button Box brings his signature prose to this story of small-town evil that combines the storytelling of Stephen King with the true-crime suspense of Michelle McNamara.
In the summer of 1988, the mutilated bodies of several missing girls begin to turn up in a small Maryland town. The grisly evidence leads police to the terrifying assumption that a serial killer is on the loose in the quiet suburb. But soon a rumor begins to spread that the evil stalking local teens is not entirely human. Law enforcement, as well as members of the FBI are certain that the killer is a living, breathing madman—and he’s playing games with them. For a once peaceful community trapped in the depths of paranoia and suspicion, it feels like a nightmare that will never end.
Recent college graduate Richard Chizmar returns to his hometown just as a curfew is enacted and a neighborhood watch is formed. In the midst of preparing for his wedding and embarking on a writing career, he soon finds himself thrust into the real-life horror story. Inspired by the terrifying events, Richard writes a personal account of the serial killer’s reign of terror, unaware that these events will continue to haunt him for years to come.
A clever, terrifying, and heartrending work of metafiction, Chasing the Boogeyman is the ultimate marriage between horror fiction and true crime. Chizmar’s writing is on full display in this truly unique novel that will haunt you long after you turn the final page.
Chasing the Boogeyman by Richard Chizmar has an excellent premise. This book is billed as a fictional account of a serial killer but is supposed to present like a true crime book. There are even photograph inserts like true crime books, photographs of victims, crime scenes, and major players to the plot. The setup seems like this could be one of those fantastic books that changes everything. But it’s not.
I read the first 100 pages of this novel when it first came out in August 2021. Then I put it down. For almost two years. I borrowed an audiobook version of it from my local library, and this was really the only way that I could get through it, by being stuck in a car for hours, driving and listening.
The initial idea is so promising, but instead of writing a book that resembles a true crime nonfiction book, Chizmar writes a novel that reads like Stephen King Lite.
Stephen King writes horror novels with an undercurrent of nostalgia. His down home, “aww shucks” attitude peppers all of his stories. King can pull it off because he is good at it, but also because he is so prolific with such a fan base, that those fans who do not really care for his deep moments of nostalgia still read and write glowing reviews of his novels. King’s plots can outshine the writing. Chizmar tries to do the same thing, but his moments of nostalgic passages fall a little flat. His main character, a younger version of himself named Richard Chizmar, comes home from college to start his magazine, Cemetery Dance. The crime spree just happens to take place between him buying hot dogs and Slurpees and eavesdropping on the old timers talking at the local 7-Eleven, writing short stories in his room, getting these stories rejected, and reading the newspaper every day with his parents. Chizmar, as a main character, is a pretty boring guy, and this makes the parts that are loosely based on his life boring as well.
This is a great concept, but I did not care much for the execution. Most of it is because the chapters about Chizmar and the things that he is doing after college really distracts from the reason why we were drawn to this book in the first place, trying to catch a killer. Maybe my expectations were wrong. I was hoping for a novel that read like a true crime book, objective and a step or two removed from the action, maybe even returning to town to investigate these cold cases instead of tampering with an active investigation. Chasing the Boogeyman is a novel that reads like a novel, and most of the parts that focus on the life of the main character keep this from being a great book.