I first discovered Richard Chizmar with the Gwendy books (Gwendy’s Button Box, cowritten with Stephen King, and Gwendy’s Magic Feather). I thoroughly enjoyed both, and I’m looking forward to the third book in the series, Gwendy’s Final Task, coming February 15, 2022.
In the meantime, we have Chasing the Boogeyman, and let me say this as clearly as possible: Chizmar hits it out of the park. He does something truly unique here, using his own youth and young adult life in a small Maryland town as the bones of his story. Chizmar himself is the main character, just back in town after graduating college. His real life friends, family, fiancé, are all characters, the streets of his hometown the streets where his tale takes place. And then he introduces into this nostalgic, real life setting a fictional, terrifying serial killer who brutally murders four teenage girls. Chizmar, the character, becomes obsessed with trying to find the killer, soon dubbed the Boogeyman by local media. It’s an inventive, downright audacious piece of metafiction.
The murders as described are harrowing, in large part because Chizmar shows just how easily it can happen, and just how quickly a town can descend into fear and paranoia. Chizmar has a real gift for describing small town life, the ins and outs, the way neighbors support and rely on each other, and sometimes turn on each other.
Chizmar is an immensely readable writer, and Chasing the Boogeyman is a page-turner. I stayed up way too late reading on multiple nights. The ending, when it comes, is satisfying as hell. I’m happy to report that I never guessed the identity of the killer.
One other thing—I enjoyed the non-serial killer parts of the the story just as much as the central mystery. Chizmar is a natural storyteller. The world he shows us is evocative and lovingly described. And if the real life Chizmar is anything like his character in Chasing the Boogeyman, I’d like to meet him for a beer. My treat.