Not for me.
(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through Edelweiss. Obvious trigger warning for suicide and other forms of violence, including animal abuse.)
Ted McKay was about to put a bullet through his brain when the doorbell rang. Insistently. He paused. He couldn’t press the trigger when he had someone waiting at the front door.
DNF at 58%.
Recently diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, thirty-seven-year-old Ted McKay has decided to end things on his own terms. He plans his suicide meticulously: he draws up a will, settles his affairs, and sends his wife Holly to her parents’ home in Florida for the week, begging out at the last minute “for work.” He locks his office door and leaves a note on the outside, so that his daughters Cindy and Nadine won’t accidentally barge in and be the ones to discover his corpse.
He’s poised to pull the trigger when an insistent knocking upends his resolve. It’s a smarmy-looking lawyer named Justin Lynch who – somehow, improbably – knows what Ted’s about to do. He doesn’t aim to talk Ted out if it, but rather has a better way. And so Ted’s recruited into a sort of suicide daisy chain. The price of admission? Assassinate one Edward Blaine, a well-known d-bag who murdered his girlfriend, but got off “on a technicality.” (Really the forensic team bungled the job, but you say tomato….) Then Ted just has to kill a fellow suicidal member, and it’s his turn. With his death disguised as a hit or perhaps a robbery gone wrong, Holly and the girls are spared the pain of knowing that Ted chose to kill himself. It’s a win-win!
Only not so much, since things aren’t exactly what they seem.
The synopsis really piqued my interest; the idea of a suicide club is kind of unique, and as someone who’s struggled with lifelong depression and the occasional suicidal ideations, I can certainly understand the appeal. As for the twist, there are countless directions Axat could have taken the plot, but the path he ultimately chose is … not my favorite. There are way too many muddled fever dreams, and the unreliable narrator shtick – which I tend to like – gets really tiresome, really quickly. Worst of all, the nature of Ted’s damage necessitates endless conversations about what’s happened to him. Rehashing of plot points like whoah.
Everything feels confusing and tedious, and when all was said and done, I just didn’t care enough about any of the characters to see it through. I’m kind of relieved, too, since there is apparently a graphic scene of animal torture nearer the ending. (It’s gotta be the possum, right?)
If I had to pick just one word to describe Kill the Next One, it would be “underwhelming.” The beginning reminded me of Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter (just a bit), which really upped the anticipation, but things go sideways pretty quickly after the first part. It’s a bummer, since the idea carries so much promise.
Comments (May contain spoilers!)
Diversity: Faced with an inoperable brain tumor, Ted McKay attempts suicide, only to be interrupted by a knock on the door as he’s about to pull the trigger. Long story short, he’s recruited into a sort of suicide daisy chain that turns out to be nothing more than a figment of his own psychotic imagination. Eventually he’s committed to Lavender Memorial psychiatric hospital for ongoing care, on account of he tried to murder his wife’s lover but was found incompetent to stand trial.
Roger Connors, one of the nurses at Lavender Memorial, is black.
Animal-friendly elements: Nope. Supposedly there’s a pretty gratuitous scene of animal torture near the end – presumably Ted finally loses his shit with the possum that’s been haunting his dreams – but I threw in the towel at 58%.