Review: The Killing Kind by Chris Holm

Killing+Kind+CoverAbout The Killing Kind

A hitman who only kills other hitmen winds up a target himself.

Michael Hendricks kills people for money. That aside, he's not so bad a guy.

Once a covert operative for a false-flag unit of the US military, Hendricks was presumed dead after a mission in Afghanistan went sideways. He left behind his old life--and beloved fiancée--and set out on a path of redemption...or perhaps one of willful self-destruction.

Now Hendricks makes his living as a hitman entrepreneur of sorts--he only hits other hitmen. For ten times the price on your head, he'll make sure whoever's coming to kill you winds up in the ground instead. Not a bad way for a guy with his skill-set to make a living--but a great way to make himself a target.

About the Author

Chris Holm is an award-winning short story writer whose work has appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies, including Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Needle: A Magazine of Noir, and The Best American Mystery Stories. His critically acclaimed trilogy of Collector novels, which blends fantasy with old-fashioned crime pulp, appeared on over forty Year's Best lists. He lives in Portland, Maine.

My Thoughts

Chris Holm knows how to put together a mighty fine thriller, and with The Killing Kind he's at his frenetic best.

While dueling assassins are old-hat in the thriller genre, Holm taps into a quick and easy rhythm that will keep readers glued to the page throughout. If it weren't for the day job, I could have easily plowed through this book in a day, the pages kept turning so easily. In fact, I'm not sure that I've read a game of cat-and-mouse this engrossing since Thomas Perry's Pursuit more than a decade ago.

Holm ably crafts his chase story in triangular fashion, with Michal Hendricks, a hitman who targets other hitmen, Engelmann, the hitman hired to locate and kill Hendricks, and the FBI agents trying to drum up any lead they can on the killer ghost that is Hendricks.

Hendricks, an ex-Special Forces operator, carries around a good amount of emotional baggage and conflictedness over his actions, and although he murders for money he operates by a set of rules and basic morality. The sort of 'do a little bad to do a little good' bit. Engelmann, on the other hand, is a wonderfully odd duck defined by his contrary nature. European, well-educated, nicely tailored, and possessing all the affectations that go along with that, he's a cold-blooded sort and brutal in his executions, yet intriguingly and scarily deft in his tortures of those standing between him and his target.

The world in which both men operate in is nicely defined, and Holm tackles the big questions surrounding Hendricks's choice of employment - like how does he figure out who needs help and who helps him along the way - quickly and succinctly, guiding readers through the plausible steps that define how a killer of killers would operate. And rather than feeling bogged down by a series of endless chases between disparate groups all running toward the same goal, there's a beautiful sense of energy guiding the story.

Equally important, Holm avoids some of the typical expectations of the genre that most readers would expect - there's no burgeoning romance shoehorned in between Hendricks and the female FBI agent that's been chasing his ghost for years. These characters are utterly professional and proficient in their aims, which is another aspect I appreciated here. The focus is on keeping the tension torqued and the action moving.

And the action - well, there's plenty of it, and it's apparent that Holm had a great time writing and constructing this book. The Killing Kind is as clever as it is enjoyable, and Hendricks lays out several well thought out traps to ensnare his quarry, with a finale that is both satisfying and more than a touch ingenious.

The Killing Kind is a seriously fun read, and more than a few scenes recalled for me the glory days of the TV show Burn Notice (which, if you haven't watched, you need to!). It's energetic, propulsive, and eminently readable. Fans of smart action-thrillers, you've got your next read right here.

[This review is based on an advanced copy received from the publisher via NetGalley.]

Buy The Killing Kind on Amazon

Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

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