In Caroline Kepnes’ third You novel, Joe Goldberg is ready to settle down. Volunteering at a library on Bainbridge Island, he’s keeping things squeaky clean while also falling in love with his boss, Mary Kay. Her social and family ties distract her from Joe—the real thing, staring her in the face across the circulation desk—but this time, he’s committed to doing no harm. If he gently thumbs the scales of justice (and true love) in his favor, surely that will be OK, right? Of course, this new beginning is dogged by loose ends from his last known address that refuse to be neatly tied off.
You Love Me is a wild ride, full of twists and slapstick gore. It's also a metatext in some ways. Joe’s obsession with Mary Kay is true to what we know of him, and his interior monologue full of TV, music, film and book references make him a compelling antihero. Mary Kay’s relationship with a rocker from the heyday of Seattle’s grunge scene feels realistic, while her female friends are more like caricatures, overdrawn in a way that’s often hilarious. A plot thread featuring a screenplay based on Joe’s life is both a callback to Hidden Bodies and a wink at the Netflix series based on the books.
Kepnes makes Joe compelling in a way that allows for some brilliant sleight of hand. Surprises seem to come from out of nowhere, and the end is truly shocking, yet there’s a relaxed flow as it all unfolds. You Love Me is more broadly funny than You; Joe’s restraint from violence does not mean the body count is low, and some of the deaths are, to put it mildly, absolutely bonkers. The reader has to wrestle with a character who is charming, funny, well read, accommodating to a fault—and also a monster. Start here if you like, but be prepared to read the whole series. It will really get under your skin.