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  • Caitlyn Lynch

Book Review: The Playing Card Killer by Russell James

The bond between twins is a fascinating thing, and not all aspects of it can be explained by science. In this gripping thriller, Russell James explores what happens when a pair of twins start out disadvantaged - by a mother who drank and took drugs while they were in the womb - and are then adopted separately. One of them, Brian, is the protagonist of the book and unaware that he ever had a twin. When he developed severe anxiety as a child, his adoptive parents took him to get help, and he’s been on medication ever since, medication which comes with significant side effects. Choosing to stop taking it just before he turns 21, Brian starts having vivid dreams of murdered women, dreams which feel terrifyingly real.

When real women start turning up dead in situations which exactly match his visions, Brian wonders if he’s genuinely insane, if he could even be a killer. The truth is far more sinister, and he can’t even begin to believe it’s true until he’s kidnapped… by his own evil twin who wants Brian to join him in a killing spree!

I really felt for Brian, battling his own internal demons as well as external pressures. Though his life hadn’t by any means been easy, he still had a strong moral compass and the will to do whatever he had to in order to stop his psychotic brother. Although at first the narrative feels a little disjointed, it’s an accurate representation of Brian’s mental state as he went cold turkey on his medication, and I felt it helped me really get into his perspective. As the story goes on, it gets more thrilling and faster paced, until by the final confrontation I was reading on the edge of my seat.

An excellent thriller with an intriguing premise, I’m giving this one five stars.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review from NetGalley.

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