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Reviews for The shards

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A Bret Easton Ellis novel about wealthy LA teens and a serial killer. Sound familiar? For his first novel in 13 years, Ellis revisits and merges the sensibilities of his two best-known works, blending the coke-dusted high school milieu of Less Than Zero (1985) with the deliberately shallow and hyperviolent atmosphere of American Psycho (1991). Ellis frames this story as autobiographical: In the fall of 1981, as a senior at a tony prep school, 17-year-old Bret Ellis turns his attention away from his budding novel, drug-fueled parties, and various sexual assignations to wonder if attractive new student Robert might be less innocent than he seems. The papers are full of stories about a serial killer called the Trawler and the cult Riders of the Afterlife; when one of his classmates/sex partners is grotesquely murdered, Bret senses a connection. When friends start receiving the killer’s calling card—rock band posters—his concern about Robert intensifies. As his investigations continue, he confronts more immediate dramas. There’s infighting among his peers; unsettled post–high school plans; and the attentions of his girlfriend’s father, a movie producer who invites Bret to pitch ideas but is mainly running a casting couch. The usual issues with Ellis apply to this bulky novel: The flatness of the characters, the gratuitousness of the violence, the Didion-esque cool that sometimes reads as Olympian smugness. But as the story proceeds, it also becomes easier to admire Ellis’ ability to sustain the mood—his characters might, as Bret says, “look at everything through this prism of numbness,” but he does ably capture how Bret’s paranoia intensifies out of that emotional distance and how the urge for feeling and connection infects and warps his personality. Bret Ellis the character is trying to play it cool, but Bret Easton Ellis the author knows just how much he’s covering up. A surprisingly seductive work of erotic horror. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.