A shooting at a Chicago beach leaves several dead and dozens injured. In the year before the attack, four individuals emerge as possible suspects.
An apathetic computer programmer.
An ex-college athlete with a history of head injuries.
An Army veteran turned Chicago cop.
A despondent high school student.
One of them is the shooter. Discover who and why.
This book was provided for review. Many thanks to the author, Greg Hickey, for reaching out and providing me with this book!
Trigger Warning: Mass public shooting, gun violence, mentions of bullying, mentions of suicidal thoughts
Parabellum, unlike so many books, starts at the end. A mass shooting has just occurred on a Chicago beach. The sand is littered with debris of all kinds, the bodies only just starting to be removed. What kind of person could commit such a heinous act? What chain of events could possibly lead to such an occurrence? Did the killer show any kind of a sign that they were capable of such things?
We the reader are then introduced to four characters; four unique individuals each with their own story and each capable of committing a most heinous crime. There’s the high school student, with his years of being bullied from those around him. There’s the police officer, once an Army soldier during the Gulf War, with his dreams of violence and paranoia. There’s the college athlete, whose whole life once revolved around soccer but has suffered one too many head injuries. And there’s the computer programmer, who’s good at his job even if it isn’t a dream position.
Any one of them could have done it. Any one of them has the motive to want to hurt others.
In Parabellum, Hickey has created four characters and has set them before us. He gives us moments from each one’s past; some moments ordinary and others not. Some moments are ones that shape the particular character in to the adult they eventually become. What is extraordinary is how he does it all without names. It isn’t until the very end of the book, practically the last chapter, that we learn the names of these individuals. The narrative for each person is written in such a way that the reader doesn’t even realize the characters are unnamed. Other descriptive terms are used instead, but not until the end are we given actual names.
With so much time and detail given to each character, to build each one up in such a way as to give legitimacy to their possibly committing mass murder, as a reader I truly kept guessing up until the end. It wasn’t until the last handful of chapters did I find myself thinking “That person…they’re the one who does it…” And I found myself surprised.
My only real qualm with Parabellum happens in the final chapter leading up to the massacre. Hickey dedicates an entire chapter to the people on the beach, introducing each one by name. He gives us these people, decently fleshed out characters, and barely a few pages later takes them away. There is hardly any time for the reader to become invested in these characters so while I can understand why he likely wrote it this way, in actuality if falls flat.
In the end though, I quite enjoyed reading Parabellum. It was quite interesting to see the events that changed each character from what they were in the beginning to who they became in the end. I encourage those who have read Greg Hickey’s other works to read this one and if you are not familiar with him, this is a good starting point.