"Killings" by Andre Dubus was first published in The Sewanee Review in 1979. The short story was adapted into a critically acclaimed film titled In the Bedroom in 2001, directed by Todd Field.
"Killings" is set in a blue-collar town in Massachusetts. The story explores the psychology and emotions of a couple after their son, Frank, is murdered. Dubus treats the dark antagonist and murderer, Richard Strout, with small notes of empathy. Dubus provides horrifying detail during the revenge kidnapping of Strout as Matt, Frank's father, walks through the strange and tidy apartment. As a master of the short story craft, Dubus presents this scene with startling incongruity. How does a man who lives in this tidy manner commit such a brutal murder? Dubus brings Strout to a level that is startling: he is an ordinary man who commits an evil act. Who else in the story is capable of such brutality?
Critics note that Dubus’ style is concise, refined, and straight from the heart. Ann Beattie admires Dubus for his attention to female characters—and Dubus delivers a complex character in Ruth, Matt’s wife. The interactions between Ruth and Matt are often surprising. The situations engulf them and become larger than who they are.
Critics note that Dubus does not simply write about family: he writes well about the point of view within an individual family. He is inside the family. The voices of mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, husbands and wives offer multiple perspectives in the action—and they inevitably get entangled. Dubus told The Yale Review that his job was to form the words on the page as his characters performed their acts. In "Killings," the actions are an affront to the reader and the words only serve to humanize their tragic choices and lives.