Friday, March 11, 2022

Review: Chasing the Boogeyman

Chasing the Boogeyman Chasing the Boogeyman by Richard Chizmar
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Going back to your old hometown can be murder.

In 1988, Richard Chizmar graduates from college and moves back in with his parents while waiting for his fiancĂ©e to finish a medical internship before they get married. Chizmar is an aspiring writer and while living with his folks he plans on working on several stories as well as publishing a new horror magazine he’s developed. Just as he’s moving home, a teenage girl is abducted from her bedroom and killed just outside her house. This begins a string of young girls being murdered by a serial killer who become known as The Boogeyman.

As a fan of mystery and horror, Chizmar becomes fascinated with the murders, and he has a friend at the local newspaper who gives him details that haven’t been revealed to the public. When he starts receiving prank phone calls and has a couple of scary incidents, Chizmar eventually comes to believe that The Boogeyman has to be somebody he knows.

This is an odd duck because Chizmar is a real person who uses an actual period in his life as the setting for a fictional plot inspired by true crime. It’s also the nostalgic love-letter to Chirzmar’s old hometown as well as a way of paying tribute to his parents who he obviously loved a great deal. All of that is nice and sweet, and then here comes the MURDERS!

The fictional killings and their effect on the town is genuinely horrifying and chilling at times. It really does read like a true crime book with Chizmar cutting back from his own life and experiences to a dispassionate reporting style based on witness accounts of the crimes themselves. The true crime influence is obvious in these parts, and it seems like a lot of this was inspired by the Golden State Killer case which had its own tragic ending for author Michelle McNamara when she wrote about it in I’ll Be Gone in the Dark.

While I was reading it all, I was fascinated and completely engrossed for the most part. However, over the course of the book I realized that Chizmar as a character in this story really wasn’t doing much of anything other than talking to people and getting the hell scared out of him a couple of times. While he is very curious about it and does end up talking to a police detective on several occasions, he’s not actively trying to play detective.

And in the end, Chizmar doesn’t actually DO anything. Even when the final revelation of the killer comes it’s not really all that shocking. (I figured it out by plot logic rather than clues in the book.) Even with a wrap-up scene there’s a lot of loose threads left dangling.

If this all had really happened, and it actually was a true crime story, then this account of Chizmer being there at the time would be pretty stunning. It’d also be understandable if not everything is explained. And again, I get that Chizmer was going for that true crime feel, but knowing that it’s fiction made it feel in the end that this was weak sauce and kind of pointless.

To his credit, there’s a theme that plays off the fictional Chizmer’s fascination with the murders to highlight one of the unsavory aspects of true crime in the way that far too often real tragedies that shatter lives are treated as puzzles to be solved for entertainment. Still, since the character doesn’t take that too far, I was once again left shrugging my shoulders about why I was supposed to care.

Despite all these misgivings, I enjoyed myself for the most part while reading. I was just left feeling dissatisfied after finishing it. I’d understand if somebody absolutely loved it, and I’d equally understand if someone hated it. I think it’ll work for some, but may fall short for others.

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