Saturday, 11 April 2015

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson



published 2015




Kind Worth Killing



I pulled up to the Kittery Trading Post, an outdoor outfitters that I’d driven past on numerous occasions but had never visited. In the space of about 15 minutes I spent nearly $500 on a pair of rainproof camouflage-print pants, a grey raincoat with a hood, some oversize aviator glasses, and a pair of high-end binoculars. I took the gear to a public restroom across from the Crate and Barrel outlet, and changed into my new getup. With the hood up and the aviator glasses on I felt unrecognizable. At least from a distance. I drove north again, parking in the public lot near Kennewick Cove, squeezing my Quattro in between two pickup trucks, I knew there was no reason for Miranda or Brad to come down to this particular lot, but there was also no reason for me to make my car easy to spot.

The wind had died down but the sky was a low, monochromatic grey, and a warm misty rain had begun to pepper the air. I walked across the damp sand of the beach then clambered over the loose rocks and shale that led to the start of the cliff walk.

 
observations: This is Ted, a rich and suspicious husband who is going to spy on his young and beautiful wife, Miranda, and the contractor who is building them a house in Maine. It’s early days in this highly enjoyable thriller: Ted’s suspicions are confirmed and he is an angry man. By chance he meets a young woman in an airport bar: they are on the same delayed flight, and get chatting. Ted tells Lily about his situation, and jokes (?) that he’d like to kill his wife. She says “I think you should.” And the plot is up up and away in no time at all. And so far, so Strangers on a Train. But there’s a long way to go….

The plot is everything in this book so I really can’t say more than that, but it is very clever and twisty, carrying you along fast enough to stop you from thinking about implausibilities. Like any regular crime reader, I was guessing what turns and surprises there might be, but Swanson definitely managed some great pivots that I didn’t predict. And actually the book is a different – and better – crime novel than it looked like at first glance. The women are clever and important, not the unknowable empty beauties created by so many male writers, and the book is full of bracingly horrible people.

It’s also funny - I liked the college girl whose roommates ‘looked like Winona Ryder from three different films… from Beetlejuice, Winona from Reality Bites… and Winona from Mermaids.’

And the unlikely moment where someone is told that someone else hates them: ‘It was like being in high school and finding out that the cutest boy in class had been talking about you to his friends.’ (These are, yes, seriously weird people, all of them.)

Sarah over at Crimepieces first put me onto this book, and you can read her review there.

Swanson namechecks other crime books, Patricia Highsmith and Agatha Christie: not exactly clues, but nice decoration for the reader who can nod knowingly at the references, and match them up with the plot.

Looking for pictures to illustrate Ted’s spying outfit, I found out that $500 was a lot to pay, he could have got the ensemble above for $15.99 on ebay. This reminded me of doing an entry on Graeme Simsion’s excellent Rosie Project, where I was hard pushed to find an expensive enough jacket.








14 comments:

  1. Oh, I've heard great things about this one, Moira! It's so good to hear that you enjoyed it too. And what an interesting twist on this premise! It's just one of those cases, I think, where you can richly enjoy a story, even if none of the characters is sympathetic.

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    1. Definitely worth a try Margot. Might not be to everyone's taste, but I really enjoyed it, and I liked the way the characters were inventively wicked!

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  2. I was impressed by the plot of this one. Very clever.

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    1. Yes - you think there are no new ways of fooling the experienced reader, but there are....

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  3. Moira: For a few sentences I was thinking you had had purchased the camo gear and were going undercover in England in pursuit of stories for your blog with the further aid of your trusty binoculars. It was quite an image. I almost regretted learning it was only an excerpt from a book.

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    1. Thanks Bill, for a really good laugh this morning. I need to think of a superhero name for myself -
      The Clothes Hunter: Nothing stands between her and a good blogpost.

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  4. I was on the fence with this book after reading Sarah's review, I am pushed a bit more toward trying the book having read your excerpt, although still sounds a bit beyond my comfort level.

    This reminds me of an older book I have (but have not read) by Peter Lovesey, On the Edge, which also starts out like Strangers on a Train. Have you read that one?

    I also thought the $500 for the items he bought sounded very high, but I suppose it depends on where you buy them. Although I suppose high-end binoculars could cost a good amount.

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    1. I was neutral going into it Tracy, but really enjoyed it. I guess you're right about the binoclulars, I was being unfair!

      I don't know the Peter Lovesey book you mention, so am off to look it up now.

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    2. I would not pay that much money for anything except electronics and cameras / lens, but we did investigate binoculars at one time, and they can be very pricey.

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    3. Yes, I think I'm aware that binocs are expensive, though personally I'd be a lot more likely to spend money on clothes. (but not raingear)

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  5. Nice juicy little plot to begin with, Moira. It certainly puts you in the mood to read the rest of the story.

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    1. Yes, Prashant, it is clever and intriguing, a great setup.

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  6. Sounds quite good, never heard of it before. Maybe I should just read my Highsmith instead?

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    1. Read both! This is more of an entertainment than the Highsmith.

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