Written by Frank Westworth — One look at the cover of this book, and you know that Chastity has been well and truly corrupted. Frank Westworth’s second Killing Sisters noir novel offers guns, girls, guitars and gruesome violence according to one of the blurbs.
JJ Stoner is, among other things, a hitman. He also plays a mean blues guitar, and owns The Blue Cube, a seedy but exclusive music club in what we assume to be London. We first met him in September 2014, and you can read our review of A Last Act of Charity to get some of the background. It should be explained at this point that Chastity and Charity – along with Charm – are not merely abstract nouns, but are female sisters and professional assassins.
JJ is now on a Mediterranean cruise where he is posing as John Hand and acting out the part of lounge lizard and cabaret guitarist. He has embarked on an affair with the ship’s first officer which is described in great detail, and with a certain amount of flair.
He is surprised and irritated, however, when he is found by his sometime lover, confidante and bass guitarist from The Blue Cube, Bibi. She has been despatched to enlist him in a rescue mission. By whom, and of whom? The first, we are never really sure of, except that the agency is vaguely governmental and very, very secret. The second bit is simpler. Chastity has carried out a hit in the Israeli desert and although the targets are dead, her escape from the scene was compromised and JJ must smuggle her aboard his cruise ship when it docks in Haifa.
Back home, we are introduced to a veritable march-past of exotic characters, all of whom are so hush-hush that every word and every gesture is a code meaning precisely the opposite to what it seems to be. There are the adrogynous Goths, Mallis and Menace; JJ’s former special ops buddy Shard; the mysterious Mr Tan; and a woman called Blesses who seems to the most deadly of the lot. These spooks all seem to be connected with the fact that the sexually predatory Chastity (she kills everyone she sleeps with) has been given a series of assassination targets, but each one is a trap where she will be destroyed once she has made the hit. JJ (Jean-Jacques, if you are interested) has been given the task of making sure that Chastity hits her targets, but survives the resulting carnage.
‘Refreshing’ is not quite the right word to use about this thriller. ‘Different’ has a faintly perjorative harmonic however, and this is an enjoyable book. The narrative is patchy. There are long and elliptical conversations between JJ and various characters which are impossibly wordy, and where you wonder if the participants know what they are talking about, because you as a reader certainly don’t. Then, the story explodes into life with astonishingly graphic violence and an almost surreal eroticism, usually involving JJ who, it has to be said, acquits himself fairly well for a middle-aged bloke.
This is something of a Marmite book – you will either hate it or love it. Human kindness, compassion, decency and conscience are all sit on the substitutes’ bench, and none of them gets a game. The background of nameless and faceless national security operatives, all speaking in riddles, can be a tad wearisome, but the writing is stylish, clever, razor-sharp, and we are left in awe of the Killing Sisters, with all their murderous skills and their sexual savagery.
The Corruption of Chastity is out now for Kindle and on 24 September as a paperback. For more hitman crime fiction click here.
Book Guild Publishing
CFL Rating: 4 Stars