July 14, 1997 12:00 PM

by Donald E. Westlake

My name is Burke Devore…. I got the résumés of many other people who are unemployed, as I am, in my field of expertise. I then determined to kill those people who I feared were better qualified than I was…. I wish to confess now to four murders.” Devore burns this confession after he has drafted it; more will die before he is done.

The Ax is told in the aggrieved voice of a man downsized after 20 years with a New England paper company—a loving husband and father chillingly unaware that he has gone mad. Here indeed is a challenge for a writer. Can even Donald E. Westlake, a four-time winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, make such a story entertain?

Yes, he can. The precise detailing of the murders, intercut with Burke’s presentation of himself as an everyday family man, is eerily gripping. But who could root for a protagonist like this? The Ax will hold you; you can’t forgo finding out how it ends. But you may wish Westlake had never introduced you to Burke Devore. (Mysterious Press, $23)

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