Written by Michael Marshall — This is the latest offering from the British-born author whose bestselling first novel The Straw Men, published in 2001, took readers into a frightening vision of small town America. Conspiracy was layered upon conspiracy and nothing was what it seemed. Killer Move is set in the Florida beach resort of Sarasota. Bill Moore is a real estate salesman and negotiator who swims in the slightly murky waters of selling cheaply-built condominiums to leathery skinned retirees.
Bill is not the most attractive of personalities. He has just a candle-flame flicker of conscience every now again, but is ambitious for the kind of conspicuous wealth enjoyed by his deeply unpleasant employers Tony and Marie Thompson. He is happily married to Stephanie, and despite being obsessed by the need to pull off the one big deal that will make him his first million, Bill seems to have a relatively idyllic life.
Then, strange things begin to happen. He finds a card on his desk printed with just one word: MODIFIED. He finds that his colleagues have received a risque email from his account. When he comes home to find a parcel from Amazon containing a glossy book of soft porn fetish photos, Steph is mildly amused, but laughs at his protests that he didn’t order it. She is less tolerant when she finds a folder on Bill’s laptop of peeping tom photos of one of his female work colleagues.
At this point Bill’s humdrum, unthreatening life begins to unravel. Rich potential client David Warner goes missing, and an embittered ex-convict arrives in town seeking vengeance – after 16 years in jail – for a murder he says he didn’t commit. Bill tries to find out who has been tampering with his laptop and hacking into his email account. However, as his row with Steph simmers, he has several drinks too many with Cass, a young waitress at a local ice cream parlour.
When Bill wakes up in Cass’s squat in a scene where terrifying violence has taken place, he realises what he’s been dismmissing as irritating pranks have escalated into something far darker and much more sinister. Steph disappears and with no-one else to trust Bill goes on the run – from the police, and a mysterious group who are using him as a piece in some terrible and fatal game of chess. Past and present begin to collide with bloody and life-shattering results.
Bill Moore is far from being a clear-minded, courageous and conventional hero, but he gains strength of a kind from the whirlwind of troubles which swirl around him. The action scenes, albeit brief, are vividly written and the labyrinthine plot is just about plausible. I was impressed by how the author describes the descent into a living hell of Bill Moore’s slightly shady, but comfortable and reassuring world. I was less convinced by where Bill finds himself at the end of the book, as this posed too many unanswered questions. There is one particularly irritating loose end which is never fully explained, and this is a pity, as it is linked to an episode near the end of the book which is very emotionally draining and deeply moving.
However, the finale of the story provides enough shocks and twists to satisfy the most demanding conspiracy junkie, and while Killer Move isn’t as compelling and affecting as The Straw Men and its sequels, it is still a good read and will not disappoint Michael Marshall’s many fans.
Published by Orion
CFL Rating: 3 Stars