Scavenger Part 2 - The Evidence That Wasn't

Scavenger is terribly written. I think I've established that well enough. There's one part I didn't focus on in that last article, however, and it is, in its own way, the absolute worst part of awful novel Scavenger. The big twist.

Okay, quick refresher - Mark killed three families and made it look like the work of a deranged serial killer so that people wouldn't notice him killing his own family, who he hated. Then Scavenger picked up the torch and murdered his own family, and then a fifth family a few months later, hoping to draw law enforcement attention away from himself. Both attempts succeeded, and then Mark wrote a book about the murders. Scavenger read the book and became convinced - based on the text within, that Mark was the original 'Family Man', whose crimes he had copied.

Then, for reasons that aren't ever entirely clear, Scavenger decides he wants to expose Mark's crimes via an elaborate game that has him running to the various crime scenes and getting punched repeatedly by a giant in a duster.

Again, it is not a good book.

Scavenger goes to an FBI agent who was obsessed with the case with his theory about Mark, and enlists the man's help in his scheming. It seems that Mark accidentally revealed something while writing the book that identified him to Scavenger as the perpetrator - and that information is convincing enough to the FBI agent that he's willing to risk his career (as well as imprisonment - the scheme is hugely illegal) to go along with Scavenger's plan.

What is the information? Prepare yourselves, because when I actually read the book for the first time years ago, I re-read the passages explaining Scavenger's flash of insight a dozen times, hoping to make sense of it, but all I ever managed to do was give myself a headache. So here it is:
Mark wrote the book as if the last two Family Man murders were committed by the original Family Man, and not a copycat.

That's it. That's the big clue.

I have no idea why it's supposed to be incriminating.

Three sets of people know that the last two murders were committed by a copycat. 1: The Family Man, Mark Stevenson. 2: The Copycat, Seth Carlin. C: Hundreds of law enforcement personnel who worked on the case.

In writing the book, Mark professed no knowledge of the copycat, and in fact wrote it as if a single killer was responsible for all the crimes. Somehow this led Scavenger to be convinced that Mark was responsible for the first three murders. I wish I could explain exactly how this came to pass, but I'm unable to. The only thing that Scavenger offers as proof is the music.

Music, you see, was playing at each of the first three crime scenes - part of the grisly tableau. A song chosen to reference the holiday in question. For Mark's family, on Christmas Day, it was 'Jingle Bells', played forever on a loop. The first two murders had other songs, and the last two didn't have music, because that detail had been left out of the news reports of the crimes, so Scavenger didn't know about it when he was creating his own murderous holiday scenes.

Here's an important note - when Mark wrote the book, he only used the real song for his own family analog's crime scene. It's believable that he'd have this information at his fingertips, since he arranged it so that he would be the one to 'find' the bodies on Christmas Day. The rest of the murders he made up songs for, although he knew full well what the real songs were in two of the cases.

Tom acts like this is such a key piece of evidence that he uses it as the trap for Mark to reveal himself. In a ludicrously-written sequence, Scavenger challenges Mark's 'reporting' by claiming that there was no music playing at any of the crime scenes. Mark rankles at the suggestion that he would ever fudge the facts in a fictional novel (seriously, that's what happens), and responds that he knows what songs were actually playing at the first two crime scenes. Scavenger then claims that Mark has just revealed himself, because only the Family Man had that information. Apparently Mark finds this such a compelling argument that he immediately turns evil and starts trying to shoot literally everyone around him.

You're correct if you find that sequence of events unbelievable. It's so incredibly bad that I literally did not believe it the first time I read it. Try to wrap your head around what happened there. Scavenger is convinced that Mark is the killer because he fictionalized events in a novel. Mark is convinced that he's been caught because he - a reporter-turned-author who extensively researched a book - is in possession of facts that aren't available to the general public, but are known by literally hundreds of law enforcement personnel, any of whom he could have gotten the information from, what with this being a decade-old cold case.

Not only has Tom lied for the entire length of the book, he isn't even able to come up with a logical way for the truth to come out. It's just inexcusable that this book was released with a plot this shoddy.

The final kicker is that this reveal not only doesn't make sense, but winds up invalidating almost the entire plot. Join me, please, right at the beginning of this tale, when Scavenger finishes reading the book and contacts the FBI agent who had been obsessed with wrapping up the case. We don't see this scene, but we hear about it later, and here's the gist of the conversation:

Scavenger: "I just read Dark Desire, and I think Mark might be the killer in real life!"
FBI Agent: "Why do you think that?"
Scavenger: "Because he says that there was themed music playing at the crime scenes, but there wasn't anything about that in the newspapers, and I know for a fact there wasn't any music playing at the last two crime scenes, although I'm not going to tell you why I'm so sure about that!"
FBI Agent: "Well, I just checked the files, and it seems that the songs he wrote about in the book weren't the ones playing at the crime scenes, except for the one he personally witnessed."
Scavenger: "Oh. So do you want to help me with a super-illegal scheme to torture this guy until he admits to being the Family Man?"
FBI Agent: "Sure."

Does this seem like the kind of evidence that would motivate anyone to risk their freedom, or lives, even?

So farewell, Scavenger, a book so absurdly awful that it's haunted my dreams for over a decade. I hope that writing this extensive article will finally banish that hobgoblin from my thoughts.

Oh, I also hope that you, the reader, enjoyed it. My opinion on the book, I mean. Not the book itself, obviously. No one can do that.

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