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: