Dorothea Deverell, a middle-aged widow living in New England, thought she was done looking for love. That is, until she meets the charming Colin Asch. Dorothea is swept off her feet by the much younger Colin. Colin, for his part, becomes obsessed with his newfound love like never before.
And Colin knows a thing or two about obsession. After all, Mr. Asch is secretly a serial killer who refers to himself as the “Angel of Death." He belongs with Dorothea, and Dorothea belongs to him—and he's prepared to kill off anyone who gets in the way of their happiness.
This chilling novel, written by the National Book Award-winning and Pulitzer Prize-nominated Joyce Carol Oates, takes readers on a thrilling ride into the depths of the human psyche, as one woman discovers the horrific lengths that someone will go to for “love.”
Read on for an excerpt of Soul/Mate.
In the Blue Room he could float for hours. For hours stretched like days, like an unbroken stream of fat clouds stretched across the sky. And no one could touch him: he was bodiless, weightless, shadowless. Floating.
He’d known what he had wanted to do, and he had done it. Thus it was done.
And it could never be undone.
Not by any power on earth.
Not by any power in the universe.
Not by the power of God—if there was a God.
XXX performed deftly and with precision, after days of admitted frustration, anger that interfered with his sleep and even his digestion since he’d been unable to get close to the target or, if he’d been able to get close, the circumstances (other people close by, witnesses) weren’t congenial for what he wanted to do. He knew that Miss Deverell might be waiting … wondering. Why was it taking Colin Asch so long to intercede in her behalf? After that lascivious look the fucker had dared give them, slitting his eyes and oily mouth in insult, as if, for that alone, he wouldn’t be punished!—as if for that instant’s assault, which pierced Miss Deverell sharp as a blade as Colin Asch with his senses keenly alert understood, he wouldn’t be punished by all means available! “Though he was dead, the fucker, when I did the other, I guess”—meaning the gouging of the eyes, which was an impulsive thing, sort of wild, whimsical, and cutting him up as he’d done with the razor, which he’d more or less planned depending upon the circumstances. For split-second timing of course was crucial. You had to know what you wanted to do, and you had to know how to do it. Fast.
And then you had to know how to make yourself vanish. Fast.
But for days prior to the execution of the plan he’d been balked and made a fool of, sort of. Like he had a hard on that couldn’t be discharged and he was getting meaner and nastier almost in a frenzy in that state. Like it was R.K.’s fault that C.A. couldn’t get close to him, to use either the wire or the razor, not one not two but three actual times he’d thought This is it calmly and methodically, but the situation had shifted at the very last moment like a picture suddenly blurring out of focus … which had surprised him so much he hadn’t had time to be scared until afterward, thinking of it. For if Colin Asch’s luck had not held, if he hadn’t a special destiny but was just an ordinary man, he’d be under arrest now, maybe, or he’d have been forced to kill another person, or more than one other person … not skillfully but desperately, in a panic.
“But of course Colin Asch’s luck held.”
It had been a sign of genius to darken his face as he’d done with theatrical makeup, and wear the woolly little goatee, which he’d worn once before with success, and of course the dark glasses that were practically wraparounds so his eyes were totally hidden … and a black wool cap fitted like a swim cap on his head, to hide his hair … and the fawn-colored suede outfit meaning he was a certain class of black, had money, taste, personal style. And the clarinet case. Genius shows itself in detail; in detail is the mark of the artist.
So Colin Asch allowed himself to be glimpsed by the parking attendant who would be the only surviving witness.
R.K. had taken the elevator up into the parking structure so C.A. took the stairs, not altogether certain which level R.K. was on but there was no problem locating him—in his dark topcoat and asshole astrakhan hat, weaving a little as he approached his car, drew his keys out of his pocket to unlock the door. The lateness of the hour and the semideserted garage made everything still. A certain holy quality to it. Shadowless. C.A. swallowed hard, feeling that little kick or trip to his heart that meant he was approaching the edge of what he’d been born for, what was necessary to exact, to restore balance. The secret was control. The secret was easing into the Death axis where you become the agent of Death in full control of Death, not its accidental victim or witness. So there appeared on level 3B of the parking structure this light-skinned youngish but old-fashioned kind of affable Negro, middle class you’d guess, professional class, strolling openly and in no hurry toward a Datsun hatchback parked a few spaces from R.K.’s Lincoln, a coincidence the two men were going to their cars at the same time but nothing more than a coincidence surely, and when R.K.’s eyes lifted narrowing a bit in his direction the black man nodded respectfully and glanced away as you’d naturally do in such circumstances; then he glanced back as if in recognition, smiled tentatively, said in a lilting friendly absolutely unintimidating voice, “Mr. Krauss, is it?” and Krauss it was, thick-bodied, thick-necked, eyelids mildly inflamed with a long night of holiday drinking, lips pursed, baffled but not wanting to make a social blunder, so the black man said quickly, in his rich low melodic voice, “Wouldn’t expect you to remember me, Mr. Krauss, but we met a few weeks ago, I think, out in Lathrup Farms, at a concert, a recital, at the arts center—wasn’t it Howard Morland who introduced us?”
So, the setup: and R.K. naturally fell for it, it was innocent-seeming certainly, even in such deserted surroundings smelling of concrete and cold and dirt, and there’s a well-dressed artsy-type black man extending his hand for a brotherly handshake and R.K. has no choice but to shift to a magnanimous liberal-hearted white in fact nodding in a semblance of recognition, friendly too and extending his gloved hand in that automatic response you can trigger in strangers if the right cues have been signaled as, here, with clockwork precision, they have been signaled. And easing in snaky-quick and close the affable black begins a smile not to be completed as a smile, exactly.
“Fucker! Did you think you could escape me!”
The assault by the agent of Death is so swift, so unexpected, the fur hat knocked from the head, the wire noose forced down and tightened in the same fluid motion, there is no time for anything more than a faint gurgling protest, a muffled dreamlike shriek of astonishment as the eyes bulge outward, the skin darkens with blood swelling within seconds like the skin of an overripe tomato about to burst, then the victim is on his knees flailing, convulsing, tearing with his nails at the unbelievable pressure around his neck choking the life out of him in beats in perfectly calibrated beats—clockwork that can run in one direction only and can never be controverted not even by the power of God.
Thus the victorious hunter stands over his fallen prey whose death he has earned, whose death is his. Legs apart, knees bent, muscles strained to their fullest, expression thoughtful, patient—for the death convulsions are the streaming-out of life in the one that yields to the streaming-in of life in the other.
Did you think you could escape me?”