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Friday, 3 June 2016

‘The Kind Worth Killing’ by Peter Swanson



Published by Faber & Faber,
3 February 2015.
ISBN: 978-0-571-30222-2 (PB)

Take Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train and cross it with Gone Girl, and you’re part way towards describing this twisty thriller. But only part.

Written entirely in the first person, but narrated from the viewpoint of multiple characters, it moves between urban Massachusetts and coastal Maine, via rural Connecticut, Paris and an upmarket New England college, with effortless ease.

The opening scene takes place not on a train but at an airport, but the premise is much the same: one character wants to be rid of an erring spouse, the other volunteers to help make it happen. After that, however, the similarity to Highsmith’s classic begins to thin out.

Like Amy in Gone Girl, Lily, the book’s main female protagonist, fascinates and repels in equal measure. If the definition of psychopath is someone whose moral compass is set in a different direction from most people’s, she soon reveals her true colours; but it takes a while before we find out how seriously she believes the world view she propounds.

The other characters, too, come to life; each is a realistic mix of good and bad traits in assorted proportions; no one is wholly innocent, and some are rather less so than others. One is left feeling some of them almost deserve their fate.

Peter Swanson creates multiple settings for Lily and her associates to inhabit, and inhabit them is what they do. A millionaire’s apartment, a student apartment, a college fraternity house, a tumbledown artists’ home, a stark seaside cottage: soon the reader is quite familiar with them, and with their denizens, despite the constant shifts of locations and viewpoints.

The ending is fitting: a case of ‘be sure your sins will find you out’; cosmic justice rather than the legal kind.

Although there are  various narrating characters,  I certainly had no trouble identifying who was telling each part of the story.  Taken all round, this is a well plotted story with plenty of tension and surprises, and a thoroughly apt and satisfying resolution.
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Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Peter Swanson is the author of two novels, The Girl with a Clock for a Heart, and The Kind Worth Killing, available from William Morrow in the United States and Faber & Faber in the United Kingdom. His poems, stories and reviews have appeared in such journals as The Atlantic, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Epoch, Measure, Notre Dame Review, Soundings East, and The Vocabula Review. He has won awards in poetry from The Lyric and Yankee Magazine, and is currently completing a sonnet sequence on all 53 of Alfred Hitchcock’s films. He lives with his wife and cat in Somerville, Massachusetts.


Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.






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