Book Talk: The Kind Worth Killing (Peter Swanson, 2015)

worth1Upon finishing The Kind Worth Killing, all I could think was “wow”. Granted, my buzzing response to this book could well be down to the fact that my fiction intake has been 90% Stephen King over the past few years. Am I perhaps overreacting and viewing Peter Swanson’s thriller as ‘fresh’ just because it’s something different written in a different author’s style? I won’t rule out the possibility but the fact is that I seriously enjoyed this book and couldn’t put it down. I devoured it like a starving man presented with a McDonalds.

The Kind Worth Killing was first published in 2015 and it has been on my radar ever since I read a magazine recommendation (FHM of all places…). It’s taken me four years to get around to picking up a copy but it was well worth it. The basic premise sold to me by that magazine recommendation is that Ted Beaumont is on his way back to the US when his flight is delayed. He meets a beautiful stranger – Lily Kintner – in the airport bar and they agree to play a game. Since they agree that they will never see each other again, they decide to take it in turns to reveal absolute truths about themselves, no matter how personal. Ted reveals that he knows his wife has been cheating on him and jokes that he wants to kill her.

After hearing his story, Lily takes Ted aback by revealing her view that the death of a person such as Ted’s wife is no loss to the world and she even offers to help him do the dirty work. What begins as a random airport meeting and a flippant musing about Ted’s wife’s adultery rapidly escalates into plotting an actual murder. Ted is initially on the fence and inwardly concerned at how easily he agrees to murder his wife but his misgivings don’t last long. After all, Miranda has suckered him in with calm lies and expert manipulation to get at his wealth. For Lily’s part, she has killed before – several times in fact. Ted doesn’t know this but suspects it and continues to go along with her anyway. The fact that Lily is described as being incredibly beautiful in a delicate, waif-like way probably helps. It’s clear that Ted is fascinated by Lily and falling in love with her even as they plan a murder.

“What I really want to do is kill her” I smiled with my gin-numbed mouth and attempted a little wink just to give her an opportunity to not believe me, but her face stayed serious. She lifted her reddish eyebrows.

“I think you should” she said, and I waited for some indication that she was joking, but nothing came. Her stare was unwavering.

I can’t go into much more of the plot without spoiling it and it really is a story that doesn’t deserve to be spoilt. Each chapter switches between the different perspectives of the characters, initially limited to Ted’s present and Lily’s recollection of her past. These perspectives are from a first-person standpoint so the reader becomes a guest of the characters’ headspace and privy to their true motivations and views of the other main characters. The book is broken into three main acts with each act climaxing in some big twists. The end of the first act for example turns the entire book on its head and leaves you wondering just what else is going to happen. Plenty of surprises, double-crosses and didn’t-see-that-coming developments follow. As a result, I found it incredibly hard to put The Kind Worth Killing down and regardless of any other reason(s) for why I enjoyed it so much, that is a cast-iron sign of a good read in my opinion.

Swanson does a great job of making you like bad people. This book has several unsavoury characters and rotten personalities and even though I wanted some of them to get their just desserts, I was no less fascinated by them. Lily in particular was the star of the book for me. Calm, calculated, somewhat aloof and with a very different regard for life, she would probably be described as psychotic by our society. The fact that she has already killed several people and isn’t particularly perturbed by her actions would cement this. However, through Lily’s own perspectives in the book, you get to know her and even sympathise with her motives. She is dangerous and clinical but at the same time, I couldn’t help rooting for her to the end. It also made me ponder on the subject of beautiful psychos in fiction and cinema and why we – men – are so attracted to them despite what they are capable of. That’s a topic for another post though.

There were only a few criticisms that I levelled at The Kind Worth Killing but it wouldn’t be a review if I gushed over the book without mentioning them. The first is that it’s difficult to relate to the characters because most seem to be incredibly wealthy with little of the surface level hardship in their lives that us ‘normal’ folk battle against day-to-day. This didn’t detract from my liking for the book’s cast but it also felt very convenient and and a little unrealistic. Speaking of unrealistic, a lot of the events that happen in the book are incredibly far-fetched and people get away with so much, so easily. Obviously this is fiction so realism has to take a backseat to a degree but when the book is set in the real world and dealing with crime and murder, then the ease at which plans are made and successfully followed through does stick out a bit.

Those minor gripes aside, The Kind Worth Killing is a genuine page-turner that I can’t recommend enough. If you love thrillers and villainous characters that you can’t help but love then this is for you. If you want to be kept guessing and unable to predict what happens next then this is also for you. I will definitely be looking for Peter Swanson’s other books after this.

My notebook obsession

Well, I don’t have a particular subject to discuss today. There’s nothing I feel like reviewing and I’m currently suffering with a condition that advanced medicine describes as my-back-is-fucked-itis so I’m not really in the mood to be sampling and analysing the world’s batshit-crazy excuses for “news” stories today. Instead I thought I’d reflect briefly on a newfound obsession of mine which – like all good obsessions – seems to have snuck up on me like a stealthy ninja moving through the shadows.

Notebooks: I appear to accumulated a fair few of them…

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I’m sure that I had a purpose or use in mind each and every time I spent money on these hunks of murdered trees but if I’m being honest, I can’t recall those no-doubt noble intentions.

The two tabbed project books were probably bought for projects that never got off the ground while the Moleskines were likely attempts at keeping personal journals, something I’m hopeless at. Others I bought just because they, err…looked nice?

Perhaps I have a strange fetish for notebooks that is only now revealing itself. If I ever have trouble getting it up between the sheets then I’ll definitely broach the idea of a threesome…with a nice, quality hard-backed notebook. Complete with elasticated strap of course.

They’re everywhere too. Some are stuffed down the side of the bed (for those late night writing sessions), others are on my desk where I tend to treat them as mere scrap paper for noting shit down and then there are unused notebooks stacked up beneath the desk in amongst piles of other crap (that I really should get around to sorting). Even as I’m typing this post, I’ve just remembered that there’s another mini notebook in the drawer on my left – also with no defined purpose.

The question is, do they even need a purpose? Even in this digital age, there’s always a call for a bit of paper to write something down on or record research. You can’t beat a good old-fashioned hard copy after all. And I do sometimes like to write reviews and stuff on physical paper first, just to keep the quality of my writing in good order. Writing is also fast becoming a lost art and people with GOOD handwriting are an endangered species, under threat from the invading forces of Tabletonia and Laptopolis – high tech civilisations that have steadily been infilitrating society and making the populance smarter (debatable).

So maybe there is nothing to worry about. Maybe I’ve just trivialised something entirely pointless in order to generate a filler post for the day. Even so, I still look at those mostly blank pages and think, “why?”