Thanks to Tasha Coryell's short story "If I Kill You We Can't Be Together," the word "hybristophilia" — sexual interest in or attraction to others who commit crimes — is now part of my vocabulary.

Also thanks to Coryell (who lives in St. Paul with her husband and son), there is now a whole book, "Love Letters to a Serial Killer," based on that short story.

A plot summary probably isn't even necessary because the broad strokes are in the title: A woman becomes obsessed with a serial killer who is in jail awaiting trial, and — going against all her feminist instincts, she tells herself — begins writing letters to him.

At first Hannah's letters are filled with disgust over how the four slain women died, information she's uncovered and probed through internet rabbit holes and an online forum. But then, the tenor of the letters changes. The jailbird and Hannah open themselves up to each other. She ends up falling in love with him and he with her.

When he asks her to be his girlfriend, she writes back, "Yes, I'll be your girlfriend. … But you have to promise not to kill me."

She's safe, she figures. He's in jail and won't get out because he's guilty and the jury will find him so. But did he really do it? Hannah keeps investigating, ignoring her job at a nonprofit in Minneapolis until she's finally fired, freeing her up to go to Georgia where William Thompson, the accused killer, is set to be tried.

It took about 100 pages or so to stop wanting to kill Hannah myself. She's an annoying protagonist who spends an inordinate amount of time battling self-esteem issues. Never enough, she's constantly bad-mouthing herself, presumably before anybody else can do it for her. I kept alternating between wanting to reach into the book to give her a big hug and wanting to give her the kick in the butt she so obviously needs.

But that's oversimplifying. Coryell obviously has much more in mind: primarily, the interplay of romance novel tropes — the self-effacing heroine who is always more beautiful than she thinks, the handsome/withholding stranger, crazy-hot sex — with the potential for brutality manifested in the debate women have been having all over social media: Would you rather meet a bear in the woods or a man you don't know?

Thompson comes to signify both, and Hannah can't help but be drawn to him because of it, her ego, superego and id (that's right, I slipped a little Freud in there) duking it out for supremacy.

Coryell has a field day with all of this, depicting Hannah as something of a masochist who may well be more in charge of her destiny than she lets on. If that's the case, a more fitting title might have been "Fifty Shades of Grey With a Death Wish."

Love Letters to a Serial Killer

By: Tasha Coryell.

Publisher: Berkley, 342 pages, $29.

Event: Book launch, 7 p.m. June 25, Magers & Quinn, 3038 Hennepin Av., Mpls., Free but registration required.