Everything You Don’t Expect and Everything You Want

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A review of Kill Them Twice by John Goldsmith, award-winning novelist and Emmy-nominated screenwriter.

Everything you don’t expect and everything you want. This is one of the higher aims of any work of fiction, regardless of genre, and it is fiendishly difficult to attain.

Eveleigh and Turner’s super-charged thriller Kill Them Twice gets you there at page one, chapter one, paragraph one – one could almost say, sentence one and keeps you constantly encountering the unexpected and relishing the manifold treats all along the way to the bittersweet, counter-intuitive conclusion.

For example, you wouldn’t think you could invest much time or emotion in Alice Lombardi (Army code-name “Halo”), formerly of Special Forces, currently a rather plain Jane professional assassin, who, when she isn’t being paid to kill, kills gratis in her role as self-appointed judge-executioner of seriously bad people who would otherwise escape any kind of justice or punishment. But you do. Immediately.

Her wit, her repartee, her savvy, her observational asides are all irresistible. So is her splendidly insouciant attitude to sex: she’ll pull the covers back for her current boyfriend, Martin, a rugged, dogged Metropolitan police detective, or for Lisa, the luscious barmaid from the Grapes of Wrath pub – and in no particular order. But as you travel with her on her increasingly taut, tortuous and very, very dangerous adventure, and probe more and more deeply into her own emotional and psychological complexities, you find something very touching and true behind the super-street-smart operator: her humanity.

Another staple principle of the thriller is that the hero is only as heroic as the villain is villainous – and in the half-crippled Kosovan murderer and sexual pervert known as “Shard” you have one scary bastard: pitiless, relentless, wholly obsessed with revenge – and with all the skills, physical and mental, to accomplish his ends. Yet here again you encounter unsuspected nuances of character: this is no paste-board villain but a finely layered character – who is all the more menacing as a result.

There are two voices operating in the story: the sharp, pithy, high-energy first person, present tense narrative of the protagonist, Halo, and the more distant, measured, clinical, chilling third person, past tense account of Shard’s series of revenge killings. The counterpoint is deftly set up, skilfully executed and works wonderfully well. And when the two voices combine – or, more accurately collide – as they do, at critical moments, well, fasten your lap-straps.

In fact, you would be well advised to take all reasonable safety precautions at the start of this amazing ride. On second thoughts, you probably won’t have time because the story grips from page one – and never lets you go. It’s a sort of Tesla Model S of a novel: uncompromisingly modern, with advanced technology and classically sleek design. And at 0-60 mph in 2.8 seconds it gives you the ride of a life-time.

 

Kill Them Twice is available from 4th September 2015 at the following outlets:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Google Play

iTunes

Kobo

A to Z of Kill Them Twice

A is for Attitude

I expect he thinks he looks menacing. To someone else he might.

Armed or otherwise, her combat skills mean she fears no one.

B is for Back-story

I’ve kicked down doors from Baghdad to Bogota.

A life spent proceeding with extreme prejudice. Her talents nurtured from a young age.

C is for Conflict

There will be two, maybe four of them. They wouldn’t dare face him alone.

Events conspire and he’s left fighting on two fronts. His reputation precedes him.

D is for Destiny

The future is purchased by the past.

They will both now be held accountable for their actions. Those twelve hours, fourteen years ago, will change their lives forever.

E is for Ethos

Fall seven times, stand up eight.

Evenly matched when it comes to survival skills. This won’t be a first round knockout.

F is for Fighting

The note was clipped to his balls when we found him in the alley.’

This girl doesn’t bitch-slap, scratch or pull hair. She fights like a man. Better than most.

G is for Gang

The predator and prey in a food chain of misery.

Human nature exploits the vulnerable. Some make a business out of it.

H is for Hatred

He’ll make it slow and drawn out, a marathon of pain.

Revenge, served cold, should also be savoured. Exquisite and ruthless.

I is for Intrigue

Those who know don’t tell. Those who tell don’t know.

When no one is quite what they seem who can be trusted? Misinformation, bending of the truth, unlikely alliances.

J is for Jeopardy

He needed her alive for the trade.

Sometimes the instinct to kill must be suppressed in pursuit of a higher goal.

K is for Killing

Who shall I kill today?

When she sees the system fail to punish cruelty against the defenceless, she steps up. Vigilante justice, maybe, but it works for her.

L is for Liaisons

The only way three people can keep a secret is if two of them are dead.

Neither is sure who they can trust. Betrayal begets betrayal.

M is for Motivation

Left broken and bleeding on a cold concrete floor, gasping for breath, wishing for death.

She will pay for this. And for what she did that fateful day in the valley of Drenica. Pay with her life.

N is for Narrators

Every road has two directions.

Two killers. Two voices. Two stories. One head-on collision.

O is for Obsession

Only the thought of revenge had kept him alive.

Fourteen years is a long time. Time for hate to fester. Time to plan.

P is for Pace

Trouble rides a fast horse.

He will kill and kill again, not stopping until kith and kin are deleted. Then it’s her turn.

Q is for Quarry

Hog-tied, ready for slaughter.

Torture is an old friend, death a sweet release.

R is for Red Herring

Still no mention of a mutilated body found in the river. Time enough.

One life sacrificed to save another. Faceless. Unidentifiable.

S is for Soldiers

Join the army. Travel the world. Meet interesting people. Kill them.

Both have fought for freedom. Freedom means different things to different people.

T is for Treachery

His source was close to her. Knew exactly how she worked.

A small circle of trust. Who has broken ranks? And why?

U is for Unleashed

This is war and there will be casualties.

Once their dance of death begins no one is safe. Both will pay a high price.

V is for Vengeance

He would crush that pampered throat in his hands, release and crush again. A long and terrible death. Giving hope and taking it away.

It’s not just for him. His brothers, friends and comrades in arms. He acts in their names and renews the vow each day.

W is for Weapons

The ideal assassin’s weapon although I’m not sure that was the manufacturer’s intention.

A gun trumps a knife every time. But knives slit throats.

X is for Xpectation

It’ll be alright in the end. If it’s not alright it’s not the end.

Both seek the same outcome but a different victor. Just a question of how much collateral damage each can withstand.

Y is for Y Now?

Solitary confinement. Torture and beatings.

When freedom finally comes it’s time to get even. The waiting is over.

Z is for The End

Tomorrow isn’t promised

She lives each day as her last. He makes each day pay for the past.