Donald Westlake's THE AX is not the kind of novel I usually read. I picked it up second-hand because I've heard horror fans rave about its dark and chilling narrative. Burke Devore, a middle-aged, middle-class, middle management family man has been downsized out of his position in an East Coast paper mill. Months of unemployment lead him to devise the horrifying plan of quite literally eliminating the competition, murdering those, like him, who have been laid off and might apply for his coveted dream job. A strain of dark and surprising humor runs throughout Westlake's narrative. This humor is apparent in the bland similarities of the resumés collected by Burke as he targets his victims, in the increasingly grisly nature of the murders he commits as he travels through Connecticut and Massachusetts and New York, in his insightful commentary and observations as he stalks his prey. "We were fired," Burke ruminates of himself and his fellow job seekers, "because the computer made us unnecessary and made mergers possible and our absence makes the company even stronger, and the dividends even larger, the return on investment even more generous." Were he not bent on his murderous solution to unemployment, Burke Devore might have proved a trenchant critic of America's new economy. Burke makes for an engaging narrator, seducing the reader with his stark and unsettling logic. How many of today's unemployed must feel the kind of betrayed promise Burke does when he writes, "We were supposed to be protected and safe, here in the middle, and something's gone wrong." What makes THE AX so chilling is exactly what makes it so plausible.