Written by Peter Swanson — This book begins with a scenario eerily reminiscent of the classic Hitchcock film Strangers on a Train (written by the excellent Patricia Highsmith). A successful businessman meets a woman in an airport bar and the pair strike up a conversation which continues when they end up on the same flight. Most ordinary folk might chat about the weather, holidays or a great novel they’ve just read, but Ted Severson and Lily Kintner’s discussion takes a radically different path. Ted has discovered his wife is cheating on him and has decided he wants her dead. As luck would have it, Lily is just the girl for the job.
Or is she? After all, this couple have only just met, so is the beautiful, petite redhead a killer or a fantasist? It doesn’t take long to discover that Lily is everything she claims, and more. And given that she plotted and perfectly executed her first murder when only a teenager, it’s obvious that Lily is not a woman to cross. These days she works as a college archivist, surely a role that needs a quiet, relaxed and contented frame of mind? Lily, however is a bit like an iceberg – on the surface she is a cool and calm cookie but under the surface there lurks untold danger to the unwary.
So, Ted wants to see the demise of his unfaithful wife, Miranda, and the pair begin to plot. So far, so predictable isn’t it? But never fear, because The Kind Worth Killing is a book that lulls you into a false sense of security and then bops you hard on the head with a blunt instrument. Every time you think you can see the wood for the trees, Swanson chucks in another fully grown spruce to black the view and leave you in stunned silence. I swear I’ve developed extra wrinkles because I raised my eyebrows and dropped my jaw so much while I was reading this book. Well, that’s my excuse anyway.
This is a tale told from contrasting viewpoints – Ted and Lily at the outset, joined at later stages by Miranda. The scattergun approach works well here, with little snippets of information to be found in the most unusual of places. It all adds to the thrill-a-minute ambience of a book that really does keep twisting and turning to the bitter end. The settings are lavishly rendered, with most of the action taking place in Massachusetts, Maine and Connecticut. Characterisation is spot on too. I was surprised to find myself warming to Lily, seasoned killer or no, and hard-done-to Ted is also a likeable (if somewhat spineless) soul – but beware… as we thriller fans know from experience, nothing is likely to be as black and white as it first appears.
Massachusetts-based author Peter Swanson garnered rave reviews and resounding praise from fellow authors for his debut novel, The Girl with a Clock for a Heart. I haven’t caught up with that book yet but I’m really pleased to have made his acquaintance here with this, his second standalone novel, which is an absolute cracker. It has already been optioned for the big screen and I can really see it doing well there. Just a pity that Alfred Hitchcock isn’t around to do the honours because I think it would have been right up his street.
The Kind Worth Killing is released 5 February.
Faber & Faber
CFL Rating: 5 Stars