Review: Nothing Left To Lose

Posted: August 17, 2017 by in Books We Love (5/5 single_star) Meta: Dan Wells, Horror

I can still remember reading I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER like it was just last week, though my rational brain tells me it was significantly longer ago than that. That book had a hook that hit me hard and deep. It was an easy setup to summarize, and so I told all my friends about it. Lots of them read it. Everyone liked it at first. About half of them decided they didn’t anymore when they found out it was a freaking “fantasy” book halfway through the thing. The other half, like me, crowed when the demon first made its appearance, and it was the appearance of that first demon that opened John Wayne Cleaver’s eyes to the wider world and what was out there. First one demon, and then another, and another, and soon he found out that there was a whole flock of them spread throughout the world. From that first view until now, I have loved every minute of this series and the story it’s brought me. But now the fear is finally setting in. The fear that this just might be the last time I get to ride this bike, and it’s scaring me half to death.

NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE (Amazon) is the third book in the second John Wayne Cleaver Serial Killer series (book six), and is a brilliant ending to the trilogy. Seriously, I can’t say enough good about what these books have done for me as a reader, and where it all ends up. To say the very least, this is not the place to come into the series. If you haven’t read the series yet, stop reading now. For spoilers of previous books here there’ll be.

John is on his own. After the emotional rollercoaster that was book five, it was a surprise (and yet not…ah, you’re a clever one, Mr. Wells) when John finally makes his break from Brooke and sets off to hunt the Withered alone. It’s been a handful of months since then, and John has searched incessantly for the one called Rain. “Run from Rain,” Brooke said, just before he left her behind. And yet John knows that it is toward Rain that he must run, because he wants to see the end of every last Withered still living.

Chasing stories and rumors and watching the ever-changing local obituaries for strange deaths as he travels has now brought his meandering path to a small, dusty town in Arizona where a little old lady has died under mysterious circumstances. He finds her body at a viewing in the single, small mortuary in the town. It doesn’t take him long to decide that he needs to set up shop there for a time, and while he doesn’t have a whole lot of marketable skills, he does do one thing really well: work in a mortuary. With the focus gained from finding what he feels is evidence of the Withered named Rain, and the home-like familiarity of his new job, John moves through an almost clinical process of ferreting out the demon hidden within the town. But with these stories, things are never simple or straight-forward.

Twisty villains, twistier plots, and a main character with (a knife and) all the heart in the world await readers within the pages of NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE.

John, as usual, is a brilliant main character. And although he’s “alone”, there are numerous other characters that he interacts with. Most of these were fairly sparsely painted, the large exception in the positive direction being Jasmyn, a young female employee at the mortuary. John spends a decent amount of time with her, and learns, I think, quite a lot about himself in the process. And while it didn’t seem like he changed significantly much in this novel, we do see one very large change in him after all is said and done. It was this change that most definitively cemented the idea in my head that this would very likely be the last book in the series.

Wells’s writing is well-crafted here. On par with his previous books. Not flowery or overly descriptive by any stretch of the imagination, but absolutely smooth enough for me to sink into the story and never want to come back up. There’s intense and funny, and gory and somber. So many dichotomies of emotion, which can be such a powerful tool in the hands of a great author. And the novel just rips from one scene and idea to the next, never slowing down from the instant he walks into the mortuary and somehow talks Jasmyn into letting him fix the dead lady’s makeup to the last twisted end of the tale.

Twisty villains, twistier plots, and a main character with (a knife and) all the heart in the world await readers within these pages. Just don’t miss out on everything that’s come before by starting here, as it’s all a tale worth the reading, and the telling, and the re-telling again and again.

  • Recommended Age: 18+
  • Language: Pretty mild, PG-worthy
  • Violence: Strong. There is one Withered that is especially "artistic" with his killings
  • Sex: Conversations dealing with sexual assault

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