Thursday, September 7, 2017

Book Review: 'A Killer's Grace' by Ronald Chapman

New Mexico born Georgia author Ronald Chapman presents his second novel – A KILLER’S GRACE – but has also written non-fiction works of note – SEEING TRUE: Ninety Contemplations in Ninety Days and WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD: Seeing Through New Eyes. Ronald owns MAGNETIC NORTH LLC, an international speaking and consulting company that provides a wide array of social media content for people in substance abuse recovery. He earned his Masters in Social Welfare from The University at Albany (New York.)

Ronald’s compassion for the everyman in us all makes his writing contemplative and stirring. There is heart here, even as the pages place before the reader questions about our perception of evil, right and wrong, and the at times wrong choices we make in our lives.

A brief synopsis will explain much – ‘For Kevin Pitcairn, a recovered alcoholic and well-received freelance journalist living on the outskirts of Albuquerque, New Mexico, the letter from a serial killer awaiting execution comes with implications he can't ignore. The writer's guilt is clear, at least in a legal sense. But the questions he raises draw Pitcairn into a compelling journey of investigation whose profound psychological and spiritual implications hurl his life into upheaval. As he tries to determine and tell the killer's true story, Pitcairn plunges deeper into the pit his own demons have created and trapped him in. His journalist's curiosity becomes a compulsion as events bind him tighter and tighter, propelling him from New Mexico's stark high desert into an increasingly hostile wider world. Murder, mystery, and redemption shape Pitcairn's struggle to answer the moral questions left festering by the killer's horrible crimes: What is the nature of evil? What choices do any of us truly have? How can we reconcile with our most painful wounds and the people who have inflicted them?’

The letter from the ‘victim’ Ronald presents to us bears quoting for many reasons - the style of writing and the depth of inquiry the book demands. ‘Dear Mr. Pitcairn: My name is Daniel Davidson. I am a condemned man. When most people think of death row inmates, I’m the one they think of. To them, I’m the worst of the worst, a serial killer responsible for the rape and murder of eight women in three states. I have assaulted several others and stalked and frightened many more. I have never denied what I did and have fully confessed to my crimes. The only issue in my case was, and still is, my mental condition. For years I have been trying to prove that I am suffering from a mental illness that drove me to rape and kill, and that this mental illness made me physically unable to control my actions. As you can imagine, I have met with little success and less sympathy. So here I sit in my cell in Santa Fe, soon to be returned to death row in Texas, waiting for the judicial system to complete the tedious process that will almost certainly result in my execution. Sometimes, when I close my eyes, I can envision the hundreds of people who are likely to gather outside the prison gates on that night. I can see them waving placards, drinking, and rejoicing, and I can hear their cheers as my death is finally announced. Who is Daniel Davidson? And what could possibly motivate a clearly intelligent individual, a graduate of Villanova University, to commit such horrendous crimes? As you might expect, I have been examined by many psychiatric experts since my arrest. All of them, including the state’s own expert psychiatric witness, diagnosed me as suffering from a paraphiliac mental disorder called “sexual sadism,” which, in the experts’ words, resulted in my compulsion “to perpetrate violent sexual activity in a repetitive way.”

Significant subject matter that requires our involvement in the story results in an entertaining and thought-provoking experience. Recommended. Grady Harp, June 17

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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