• Math Bird

Repetition Kills You by Tom Leins - REVIEW

Updated: Jan 4

When I was a kid, every summer holiday, my best friend and his sister used to be shipped off to Devon for a long three-week break. I was so envious at the time, spending long solitary days in the back garden; however, years later and arguably a little wiser, having read Tom Leins’ deliciously dark collection of Paignton noir vignettes, maybe day-dreaming in the safety of my home was no bad thing.

In Repetition Kills You we accompany P I Joe Rey through a nightmarish world of small-town sleaze that provides a backdrop to a portmanteau of revenge-hungry tales laden with bloody mutilation and violence. A myriad of dark deeds is as expansive as its cast. Yet Leins’ excellent tight prose and command of narrative keeps the reader both alert and entertained.

A noir undercurrent resonates throughout. Yet it isn’t totally bleak; Leins’ sharp, sardonic wit gives the writing insight and depth, alleviating it from total darkness:

“Do you ever think about us, Joe?”

I consider the stomach-churning visions that sometimes keep me awake at night.


Leins’ unique vision of Paignton noir is uncompromising and laced with urban myth, yet his brief explorations of supernatural noir left a lasting impression on me. I’d love to see more of this; it was reminiscent of Laird Barron, and Leins undoubtedly has the talent to take it further, and I’d be excited to read the results.

As Leins acknowledges, Ballard’s post-modernist short story The Beach Murders was an inspiration, and Repetition Kills You with its alphabetically organised flash tales, which can be read in multiple sequences to provide a bigger story is a worthy homage to this. Like Ballard’s story, it experiments with convention and expectations. I thoroughly enjoyed this and highly recommend you journey into Rey’s world where passivity is not an option, but wherein lies the key.

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