Psycho killer, psycho killer, which dude is the psycho killer? That’s the question at the thumping heart of Justin Kramon’s new thriller, “The Preservationist.” Set on the campus of fictional Stradler College, the story features a shy freshman named Julia who belongs to that hardy breed of suspense heroines inclined to take solitary walks at midnight and linger in empty dormitories even after two undergraduates have been assaulted. In addition to its poor public-safety record, Stradler College has enrolled more than its share of weirdos, all of them intent on invading Julia’s personal space. Even worse, one of her sketchy suitors turns out to be minoring in serial killing, although his transcript looks squeaky clean. If Julia doesn’t crack this guy’s cover fast, she’s likely to join his sorority of victims and earn herself a permanent “Incomplete.”
“The Preservationist” is a simple thriller in which plot rules. Kramon doesn’t tax readers with atmosphere or character development. In fact, Freudian Theory 101 suffices to flesh out all the players here: Julia is isolated by guilt over the accidental death of her older brother, and, thus, she’s vulnerable to manipulation; the psycho killer is tormented by memories of his sexually inappropriate parents; and the Good Guy is bent on atoning for his youthful cowardice. Got it?