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Monday, 7 August 2017

‘The Redemption of Charm’ by Frank Westworth

Published by Book Guild Publishing Ltd,
28 March 2017.
ISBN: 978-191132055-5. (PB)

JJ Stoner is returning from a bad place after his employer betrayed him, and his best friend raped and killed his girl, but now he’s recovered and looking for revenge.

The book begins with some time shifts from last year to this, but once that settles down, it moves to chronological order, following Stoner and his associates, the Killing Sisters through fast action to an explosive finale. Jean-Jacques Stoner is an ex-soldier, a hired assassain, a Harley Davidson enthusiast and a mean blues player; the Killing Sisters, Charity, Chastity and Charm, are in the same line of business, working mostly for a duo named Mallis and Menace, who arrange hits. It seems Stoner is being protected by the FBI, but the sisters – particularly Chastity – are out on their own in an increasingly complicated world. Although he’s a ruthless killer, Stoner retains our sympathy, partly because of the damage he himself has sustained, partly because he kills only those who are out to get him (although his contract kill of the woman banker reminds us not to think he’s cuddly). His bleak honesty about the consequences of his life is refreshingly real in this style of action thriller. The novel is narrated in the third person, with crackling dialogue, fast action sequences, some imaginative murders described in gory detail, and some inventive sex scenes. It begins in a vividly-described cabin in the wilderness, then moves to equally atmospheric mean US city streets and quiet English countryside.  While this reads as a stand-alone, with Stoner’s past trauma gradually being explained, it brings back many of the characters and themes from the previous books, the JJ Stoner short stories and the first two Killing Sisters novels, including the Hard Man, Stoner’s sometime employer, and the hypnotic Blesses, and I did feel having read the earlier books helped me follow the dense plotting of cross and double-cross. The ending includes a good few players unaccounted for, so there may be a new trilogy in the brewing.

A fast-moving, wittily-written, hired-gun thriller with a high sex-and-violence score, and the added bonus of iconic bikes and cool music.  Stoner’s fans will enjoy meeting him again; new readers might want to begin with either the short Stoner Stories or with A Last Act of Charity (Killing Sisters book 1).
Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Frank Westworth shares several characteristics with his literary anti-hero, JJ Stoner: they both play mean blues guitar and ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Unlike Stoner, Frank hasn't deliberately killed anyone. Instead, Frank edits a monthly classic motorcycle magazine (see and has written extensively for the UK motoring press. Frank's 'Killing Sisters' series starts with A Last Act Of Charity and continues in The Corruption Of Chastity. However, you can start with any of the books in the series; they're written to be enjoyed if you come in halfway through...
Please note; the Stoner stories and Killing Sisters series are intended for an adult audience. They're violent and explicit and contain the occasional intellectual challenge.

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

A review of her recent book Ghosts of the Vikings can be read here.

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