The Kind Worth Killing – Peter Swanson
Prepare yourselves for some sleight-of-hand shocks in ‘The Kind Worth Killing’ by Peter Swanson. He cleverly, almost slyly keeps some facts up his narrative sleeve early on, managing to be secretive in plain sight and then springing several stunning surprises. Swanson gets away with his own brand of ‘unreliable narration’ because he does it well, turning the tables at the right time and making you easily forgive his authorial tricks.
Of course all crime authors keep some cards close to their chest. Way before Gillian Flynn’s ‘Gone Girl’ revamped the concept of unreliable narration in crime novels, Conan Doyle himself admitted to it, making Sherlock Holmes affectionately chide Dr Watson once for omitting those few key details in his stories which allowed him to end them with a coup de theatre.
‘The Kind Worth Killing’ isn’t a police procedural and this allows Swanson a much freer rein in plotting the novel. The story starts out almost softly: Ted Severson, a wealthy software industry consultant from Boston discovers his wife Miranda is cheating on him and dreams about killing her. At London Heathrow Airport Ted meets Lily, an enigmatic young woman who offers to help him. The characters appear bland (and wealthy) enough not to be nasty, and I confess I was perplexed by the lack of criminal punch of the first few chapters.
I soon changed my mind though: Swanson skilfully builds a taught web of psychological suspense around the schemes of the Ted – Miranda – Lily trio. The story is firmly set in the present but reaches into the characters’ past too, and Swanson balances the backwards and forwards in time well. He draws you in with his smooth prose, excellent narrative timing and sharp characterisation… and then savagely pulls the carpet from under your feet, not once but twice, three times. No way you can stop reading then, and you’ll forgive me if I give very little away, plot-wise.
There will be bloodshed, though never gratuitously gory, as Swanson is more apt to chill you with psychological nuances than carnage. There will be suspense and a plot which becomes more and more intricate but never confusing. There will also be a police investigation, rather a low-key one since this is no street crime/gangster story. It’s a smart, contemporary psychological thriller with the focus firmly on the minds of the three leading characters. On the tangled web of desires, hopes and delusions that reaches deep into their past and will bring them to violence and vengeance.
Well done Peter Swanson for giving a new twist to the classic love triangle, and for deftly showing us the unexpected dark side that even the most ordinary people can harbour.