The Rookie: A Dark Serial Killer Black Comedy

Serial Killer Dark Comedy Cover Art

An interesting premise combined with a great ending, 19 Nocturne Boulevard’s “The Rookie” captures and combines both humor and an emotional gut punch you won’t see coming until it’s too late. The idea of this story is similar to the John Wayne Cleaver series by Dan Wells. Both are trying to humanize the people with no empathy for others. Mr. Wells does it by putting you inside the head of a teenage sociopath who’s struggling with both inner and outer demons. Julie Hoverson, achieves the same effect, but her method is slightly different.

Instead Hoverson uses dark comedy to make us care about these kinds of people. Their sympathetic, not because of their actions, but due to the setting with which the story takes place. The basic setup of The Rookie follows a serial killer in training, who finds an old lady, who just so happens to be a big name serial killer. Interspersed throughout the story are news casts which help inform the listener understand the in between portions. The audio drama is almost an hour long and without this storytelling tool, it would be longer.

The elderly serial killer and the rookie form a special bond, which culminates in an ending that leaves you on the verge of tears. It’s penultimate scene gets you choked up and, by the finale, you’re right there with the main character. Whether the author intended it or not, she gave a twist that was surprising yet inevitable. Serial killers are incapable of empathy. The fact “Doorbell Mike” does something contrary  most sociopaths at the end proves he’s not as heartless as he wanted himself and the audience to believe.

Although “The Rookie” didn’t give the same sort of real life revelation as the John Wayne Cleaver books did, it was a surprisingly enjoyable ride, seeing as how the first 19 Nocturne Boulevard audio drama didn’t leave a good impression.

5/5 Stars

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Earbud Theater: Shift

A story with an ending that doesn’t wow, but made me go “how?”  The premise is much like the one Dan Wells used in The Hollow City. A schizophrenic sees faceless people and thinks there is some conspiracy out to get him. In “Shift,” the story starts off with the protagonist in a session with his psychiatrist. They chat a bit about their previous sessions and then the story gets underway.

What makes this story different from the traditional psychological horror is its ability to make you wonder, while at the same time, ground you in reality. After all, how would you react if you found out that you could “shift” between dimensions? In The Hollow City, there is a supernatural element much like in the John Cleaver Trilogy (also by Dan Wells). However it’s not revealed until the end and that whole aspect is what takes the book from a good book to a great one. Shift has essentially the same exact plot structure, but the ending is more open-ended and has a sense of wonder that The Hollow City trades-off by making the revelation more scientific than fantastical.

Those are the two extremes and both have their merits. As for myself, I prefer concrete reality over magic or science without much of an explanation. It’s why magic systems and their rules are interesting to me. However if one looks at early Fantasy, there’s no consistency. The Lord of the Rings is an obvious example. You have to be a wizard to do magic and that’s about it. “Shift” is somewhere in between a Lord of the Rings magic system and The Hollow City.

Shift is a wonderful short audio drama that certainly packs somewhat of a punch with its ending. However, the story overall just didn’t wow me.