Reviewed by Scott A. Johnson
Written by Gregory Funaro
Serial killers have long held the fascination of horror fans with names like Hannibal Lecter and Norman Bates topping the list. But unlike those icons of madness, there are others, like John Doe from Seven, whose brutality is about something more than death and the unbridled need for carnage in that it is intended to send a message. In Gregory Funaro’s debut novel, The Sculptor, the killer has a message, and his way of sending it is chilling.
The Sculptor centers on art historian Cathy Hildebrant, who is the world’s foremost authority on the sculpted works of Michelangelo. When a victim turns up posed and preserved in a near exact likeness of Michelangelo’s “Bacchus” (and with her name neatly inscribed on the statue’s base), the FBI contacts her to try to make sense of the crime and to discover what the killer wants.
To say that the character of “The Sculptor” is fascinating is an understatement. Brutal, methodical, and twisted, Funaro has created a nightmarish human being of not only gargantuan proportions but frighteningly intelligent as well. The reader gets to watch as he chooses his victims, confronts them with what’s about to happen to them, and butchers them into his gruesome works of art. We get to see the thought process behind his madness, and it’s a darkly interesting window. The concept of preserving victims and putting them on display is a trope used in hundreds of thriller books, but the amount of effort, the detail paid to the process, is what stands out here.
There are a couple of flaws with The Sculptor, none of which makes the book any less of a great read. First, Funaro’s dialogue is very stilted. Granted, for the character of “The Sculptor,” it should be so, but for the FBI agent and the art history professor, it doesn’t quite work. They just don’t talk like real living, breathing characters as much as they do a narrator who is full of himself. There are also places where, instead of taking the reader along for the ride, we are given long, pages-long explanations of what’s going on. Also, the ending seems rushed. With the scope of The Sculptor’s plans and with the complex relationships built between the main characters, Funaro could have drawn this story out into a real pot-boiling, slow-burn-style thriller. What we get, however, is a break-neck paced novel with plenty of twists and turns and a terrifying new “monster” to boot.
While The Sculptor isn’t perfect, it is an impressive first offering that shows a great deal of potential for Gregory Funaro. It is, all things considered, a great read with enough teeth that readers will be looking forward to his next book, the prequel The Impaler.
4 out of 5
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