The novel “Video Kill” by Joanne Fluke was published for the first time in 1989.
Erik Nielsen and Tony Rocca are trying to sell the script they wrote for a possible movie called “Video Kill”. It’s a horror / slasher movie in which a psychopath is filming the murders he commits and his victims are actresses. A producer is interested but the production studio’s owner doesn’t want to buy the rights and the deal remains in a limbo when the producer acquires an option on the script.
Months pass and it seems that the option will expire without the movie getting produced when an actress is killed in a way that reproduces the famous shower scene from “Psycho”. The killer’s style is similar to the screenplay for “Video Kill” and for the two authors that’s advertising, though of an unwanted type. Fiction and reality start crossing path in a disturbing way.
Joanne Fluke is best known for her series Hannah Swensen novels, thrillers that contain a certain amount of humor. However, already in the ’80s she wrote novels that blend those elements but with other settings. “Video Kill” is set in Hollywood and blends the story of two authors who are trying to sell a screenplay to that of a murderer who kills reproducing scenes from Alfred Hitchcock movies.
The story concerns the world of cinema, so much that its protagonists are not the killer or the cops who investigate the murders but Erik Nielsen and Tony Rocca, two authors who are trying to sell the script of a horror / slasher movie. The idea came to Joanne Fluke watching Alfred Hitchcock’s movies and imagining a serial killer who reproduced scenes of the master’s movie and from there she built what became “Video Kill”.
In the Hollywood’s setting described by Joanne Fluke the line between reality and fiction seems tenuous. The fact that someone reproduces scenes of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies really killing the actresses is just one example. The direct link between movies and reality makes it striking but but in the characters’ lives there appear to be more subtle examples of sorts of fiction.
In the course of the novel the reader can quickly realize that all the important characters have something to hide, even the people closest to them. For someone the secret is about money, for someone else is about health. These secrets are kept for various reasons that seem important to the characters but the lack of communication with friends and family has consequences on personal relationships.
There’s for example Katy, who divorced Chief Detective Sam Ladera to pursue her career as a journalist. When her ex-husband is put in charge of the investigation of the crimes related to Alfred Hitchcock’s movies, Katy somehow starts getting closer to him again to look for a journalistic scoop but this makes it harder for her to keep on hiding certain truths from him.
In all of the, the murder investigation gets sidelined. Of the cops who are supposed to be investigating in the novel only Sam Ladera appears. He’s an old Tony Rocca’s classmate and thanks to that old acquaintance the two of them work together to analyze the murders. That job they do is one of the secrets that the two characters keep throughout the story.
The main flaw of “Video Kill” is that it’s labeled as a thriller but I think the tension is nonexistent. The scenes in which the serial killer murders his victims last just a few pages and contain no particularly graphic descriptions. The murders seem almost an excuse to tell the stories connected to the protagonists.
“Video Kill” is labeled as a detective story / thriller with horror elements but often it looks more like a comedy. it’s strongly character-oriented so Joanne Fluke devotes most of the novel to describe the protagonists’ feelings and emotions and their actions’ motives. The story is a strong immersion in the cinema world so if it’s the type you may like I think it’s fun to read.