Kill Fee

Written by Owen Laukkanen

Review written by Gwen Moffat

Gwen Moffat lives in Cumbria. Her novels are set in remote communities ranging from the Hebrides to the American West. The crimes fit their environment, swelling that dreadful record of sin in the smiling countryside cited by Sherlock Holmes. The style echoes this: rustic charm masking horror.


Kill Fee
Corvus
RRP: £7.99
Released: February 5, 2015
Pbk Original

In Saint Paul, Minnesota an entrepreneur sets up a business via the internet, advertising for clients who need to purchase a kill, the fee no problem. This contractor is a family man running his enterprise from home, taking time off to train his “assets”: hitmen recruited from traumatized veterans on their return from Iraq.

Kill Fee is no whodunit; everyone is identified from the start, their behaviour and motives laid bare to the reader but not to the cops, who kick off the action when they witness a shooting and the escape of the killer. An indication of the peculiar nature of forthcoming events is a glimpse of the shooter whose eyes are dead. That basilisk stare stuns one cop, reaction that bewilders the other. These are Laukkanen’s series characters: Carla Windermere, an FBI agent – black, beautiful, alluring, and Stevens – a state cop, plain and sensible except that his ageing libido itches to sow one last wild oat.

From that first murder – of a billionaire seemingly without enemies – the couple are set on a trail of further violent deaths with the intrusion of old cold cases and always several steps behind the plot, but the gap closing. On the other hand, as the action switches from cops to puppet master, to the mind of the first and proven assassin, and so to the recruit in training, the reader knows everything except how it will end. All suspense is in the dramatic crescendo.

Light relief is sketched in by Stevens’ domestic situation and there is sex interest in the triangular relationship when Mathers arrives: a younger FBI agent and hunky dogsbody. And the trail becomes a travelogue as the cops follow killers and their affairs from the Twin Cities to Vegas and Florida and back again. Logistics are complicated but, like senior policemen, one is content to leave times and alibis to the workers and accept their conclusions.

An audacious thriller based on a form of torture that is unsavoury to those with long memories. Like a few years.

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