Book review: The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson
How do you like your psychopaths… mad, bad, dangerous, deadly?
US author Peter Swanson’s devilishly clever brain must have waiting rooms full of them, all eager to be checked out for a leading role in his next Machiavellian thriller.
The Kind Worth Killing, a gripping, seductive tale of trust and betrayal, love, lust and evil, is Swanson’s second hypnotic thriller following the runaway success of last year’s electrifying debut, The Girl With a Clock For A Heart, hailed by the Washington Post as crime fiction’s best first novel of 2014.
Billed as a contemporary reimagining of Patricia Highsmith’s bestselling novel Strangers On A Train, this new, equally dark suspense thriller is a psycho stunner, written with Swanson’s now recognisable fluidity, stylish assurance and awesome complexity, and steeped in malevolence, mind play and murder.
Dotcom millionaire Ted Severson’s late night flight from Heathrow to Boston has been delayed and over Martinis in the business class lounge, he gets chatting to a fellow passenger, the beautiful and mysterious redhead Lily Kintner.
In the waiting lounge and during the flight, the two strangers play a game in which they reveal more and more intimate details about themselves. Ted, simmering with anger, tells Lily that only a week ago he discovered that his bohemian artist wife Miranda was cheating on him with Brad Daggett, the contractor building their extravagant new house in Maine.
The playful banter turns more sinister when Ted claims, half-seriously, that what he would really like to do is kill his wife. And not only does Lily think he should… she’s also willing to help him, asking him what difference it makes ‘if a few bad apples get pushed along a little sooner than God intended.’
Miranda seems like ‘the kind worth killing’ and for Ted, that’s the moral authority he needs to act on his desires.
Back in Boston, Ted and Lily’s twisted bond grows stronger as they begin to plot Miranda’s demise. But there are a few things about Lily’s past that she hasn’t shared with Ted, including a legacy of murder that goes all the way back to her troubled childhood.
And as Ted begins to fall in love with Lily, these conniving co-conspirators become embroiled in a chilling game of cat-and-mouse, one that both of them cannot survive… and with the shrewd and determined Boston police detective Henry Kimball on their tail, the outcome will be devastating.
The Kind Worth Killing is an intoxicating, multi-narrative thriller, packing more twists and turns than a snakes-and-ladders board and delivering a final knockout punch that will leave readers floundering and floored.
Swanson paints a memorable and disturbing portrait of a marriage turned dangerously bad –an unravelling relationship that explodes into vitriol and violence through a chance encounter on a transatlantic flight.
His narrators are a cast of compelling, corrosive characters, each seemingly capable of breathtaking betrayal, each carefully calculating and each harbouring dangerous desires.
What we have here is cold-blooded revenge, double-dealing and murder on a grand psychotic scale, and all wrapped up in a stylish package of elegant prose and riveting storytelling.
An ingenious and classy thriller…
(Faber, hardback, £14.99)