Love in the Time of Serial Killers by Alicia Thompson and published by Berkley is a rom-com book with a lot of heart. Yes, romance novels focus on love, but what sets Thompson’s serial killer romp apart from others is its exploration of self-love, anxiety, and letting love in.
Readers will meet protagonist Phoebe Walsh, and will either love her or find her approach to life frustrating. When her dad dies unexpectedly, her busy life as a true crime academic is relocated to Florida to take care of his house. She’s determined, hardworking, sarcastic, and analytical. All of her strengths are, also, her weakness. Her true crime fascination makes her overly anxious about new people, including her mysteriously strong and sexy neighbor, Sam. Is Sam being nice to her in order to kill her and drop her in the bottom of the lake or is he really just that nice of a person and it’s terrifying? Phoebe embodies a woman who uses her anxieties as a way to avoid deeper connections with people (hello, trauma!). While some of her internal struggles may not mesh with some readers, Phoebe is the kind of protagonist that is incredibly fleshed-out and rewarding to see grow.
There is a lot to be said about the true crime genre in general. It is an industry that profits off of exploring some of the most heinous crimes committed. There are cases of people being a little too excited about the tragedies that befall people or are exploitive in their hobby. However, that is never the case with Love in the Time of Serial Killers. Thompson crafts Phoebe with such expertise that it’s easy to understand her avoidant attachment style. Being in academia, Phoebe’s character is able to explore the relationship between authors of true crime books with their intended audience and how it affects a body of work. This setup does not feel exploitive, careless, or for shock – which as a reader, is very appreciated.
This genre-mashup is written with such delight. Phoebe meets Sam and she has to either shed her preconceived notions and fear or open up her heart to someone new. It’s such a great book that frames adult love as complex, scary, and hard to work through if you have baggage. As someone who has experienced a lot of trauma and deeply rooted fears of abandonment making me hyper-independent, it’s so refreshing to be on this journey with Phoebe and Sam. It can be difficult and hard to work through your own personal traumas in order to communicate effectively and not hurt another person. Thompson builds their romance with care and consideration to not just Phoebe but Sam as well.
Sam is a kind, gentle person who refuses to let love go. He is patient and nurturing with his own set of past baggage, as well as Phoebe’s. Sam is someone who carries a lot of hurt, which causes him to be incredibly shy. However, his shyness and reservations make for some really fun banter and misinterpretations between the two of them. As the narrative pushes on, Sam is the literal heart of the story, bringing out the best in Phoebe.
There are many aspects of Love in the Time of Serial Killers that are to die for, such as Phoebe’s appreciation of alternative music, a plus-sized protagonist who loves her body, a very cute sublot about Phoebe finding a cat and definitely not taking it in, Phoebe’s brother Connor and his obsession with the video game Crash Bandicoot, plus some very fun sexy scenes. I love a good rom-com, and this has become one of my favorites of 2022.
Love in the Time of Serial Killers by Alicia Thompson is available for purchase August 16th, 2022 at your local independent bookstore or wherever fine books are sold.