Nailbiter is a detective noir story about the mystery of one tiny redneck town that has somehow produced sixteen of the world’s most deadly serial killers. The story opens as a former interrogator for the NSA named Finch, receives a call from an investigator friend who tells him that he’s solved the case of “Buckaroo” Oregon. However, before he can tell the Finch what has happened, he disappears causing Finch to travel to Oregon, to try to solve the mystery himself in order to find out what has happened to his friend. In doing so he is forced to join forces with an exonerated serial killer known as the “Nailbiter.” The Nailbiter received his moniker from having imprisoned several victims, chewing off all their fingernails, and then holding them captive until their nails grew back so he could chew them off again.
What is interesting about the story is that while author Joshua Williamson hooks the reader right away with an incredibly compelling premise, he seems to work backward from there by fleshing out the story with well-worn tropes from other detective noir stories such as: an investigator who is pulled back from the brink of suicide with the prospect of the case of a lifetime, and a serial killer who may help investigators track down other serial killers ala “Silence of the Lambs.”
Beyond the initial mystery it is hinted that the ultimate aim of the story is to explore what it is that drives people to become serial killers. This is more than enough to keep me interested for another installment, but on top of that the first volume ends with the revelation of yet another mystery at a cemetery where all of the deceased serial killers of the town are buried. However, due to the narrative focus on the mysteries of the town, I found myself a little annoyed that most of the characters in the story are, at this point so similar ones from other stories. Although the author does seem well aware of what he is doing, so I’m hoping that in the next volume the characters are developed to the point where they are no longer one-dimensional caricatures from other detective stories, and Nailbiter can keep it’s momentum going in a delightfully morbid direction.