Written By: Bryan Burrough
Performed By: Steve White
Run Time: 2 Hours, 45 Minutes
Published By: Audible
Link to Purchase
If you’re expecting a clever joke to open this one up, then I’m afraid I’ll have to disappoint you. There isn’t any room for comedy when discussing this story. As much as I love a good quip, I don’t want to make light of these terrible events, especially considering the people who were affected by them.
The Demon Next Door is an Audible original book, meaning that it is only available in audiobook format. It’s a very short listen, clocking in around three hours, but those hours feel more like days considering the subject matter.
Be warned: the contents of this book are based on real and disturbing events, including heavy sexual violence. If you’re not comfortable with that, then I’d advise you steer clear of this one. There is no shame if you do.
Plot: A Grim History of Violence
The Demon Next Door recounts the story of Danny Corwin, a high school classmate to the author, Bryan Burrough. This book recounts his life as a serial killer/rapist, ranging from his first victim in middle school all the way to his capture and execution in his forties. It goes into extreme detail, from his ten-year prison sentence after his first attempted murder, in which he earned thirty-year parole, to his brief time as a regular member of society afterward.
While the story is written as an informative, documentary-style book, utilizing official records and witness interviews, there is a fundamental question at the core of the book. Why has Danny Corwin been forgotten? What makes us as a society so eager to forget these serial killers and move on? Is this the right thing to do? Or will doing so create another demon like Danny? It’s an incredibly fascinating and bone-chilling question, one that is expertly explored throughout the story.
Its subject matter is very dark. But if you can handle that, you’ll find an interesting and chilling story that explores an interesting question. Unfortunately, the presentation of this story is where things start to fall apart.
But first, let’s discuss the great quality of the story:
Voice: Less is More
Bryan Burrough’s voice is very solid. He uses very few details, but the ones he does paint a clear picture in your mind. This works especially well given how graphic some of the scenes are, such as the accounts of the attacks from the surviving victims. It’s not so in-depth as to make you completely sick, but it’s detailed enough to make you understand how terrible it really is.
This minimalistic style is helped thanks to the documentary style of the story. We don’t need to worry about writing organic dialogue because all the dialogue was taken from interviews or witness accounts. This makes the story feel all the more chilling because you know that every word is written is as close to reality as can be.
It’s also fairly well-paced. No event drags on for too long, thus preventing it from becoming uncomfortable or insensitive. This makes it easier to listen to the whole thing in one sitting, so long as you’re comfortable with the material.
Performance: A Miscast Opportunity
Steve White is a good pick in general. He’s definitely talented, and he deserves the work he gets. However, I feel he was very miscast as the reader of this book.
His delivery is flat from start to end. He doesn’t give any difference in his performance, which is especially pertinent during the more gruesome scenes. He doesn’t do anything to add anything to the events, thus depriving it of extra potential punch. Because of this, the story feels more like a dull informative documentary, rather than a thought-provoking and chilling story of real-life violence.
While I personally believe that the story is well presented, the performance drags the whole experience down. This is extremely detrimental, as it turns a story that should turn your stomach upside down into a history lecture. No matter how inherently interesting the subject matter may be, a poor performer can make it feel like a boring waste of time.
Recommending this one is hard. While the performance by Steve White drags the audiobook down as a whole, I was still suitably engaged and horrified from beginning to end. It’s an interesting and tragic story of a man’s transformation into a monstrous psychopath, and I couldn’t bring myself to stop until the very end.
If you don’t think you’d be comfortable listening to something like this, then I’d recommend you stay away from this one. However, if you’re interested in that sort of thing and you want to learn more, I’d say to give it a look. If you can bare through the dull narration, you’ll find something both terrifying and fascinating.