The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson © 2015 William Morrow
Striking redhead, Lily Kintner is a university archivist with a sordid, secret past. Lily is something of a criminal mastermind, having gotten away with two murders. In Heathrow Airport, Lily strikes up a conversation with traveling businessman, Ted Severson, who met Lily through his wife some years before, but somehow doesn’t remember this striking redhead. Lily remembers Ted, though, especially Ted’s wife, who once had an affair with Lily’s boyfriend, a boyfriend Lily killed for being unfaithful. At the airport bar and throughout the flight, Ted tells Lily he’d like to kill his wife, because he recently caught her having an affair. Lily tells Ted he should go for it, because some people are just the kind worth killing. It’s a jet set Strangers on a Train.
Once back in the states, Ted and Lily start plotting Mrs. Severson’s demise for real. Ted wonders a little bit why this stranger, Lily, would be willing to put her neck out for him, but decides it is because she likes him. The plot to kill Mrs. S hits a speed bump when Ted is murdered by Mrs. S’s other man, but then Lily takes the wheel to finish off Mrs. S all by herself—an act of personal vengeance she has always wanted. Why Lily didn’t kill the bitch on her own timetable, instead of using a chance encounter with Ted to get the ball rolling, was a bit of a head scratcher.
The other man killed Ted at Mrs. S’s bidding, so Lily and her nemesis are mirror images. Mrs. S finds out about Lily’s involvement, and soon they’re plotting to kill each other with the hapless other man caught in the middle. Kind presented a kind of interesting cat-and-mouse between wretched characters, and Swanson managed to make the reader want Lily to succeed despite her wretchedness, if the reader engages in some loose moral equivalence. See, Lily only kills people who have wronged her, so if you mess up her love life or subject her to indecent exposure, you deserve to die.
In a side story, a cop hot on Lily’s trail (and tail) gets stabbed by Lily, and she’s caught in the act. This appears to be Lily’s fatal mistake until she gets off scot free by claiming the cop was stalking her. Well, that’s what cops do to suspects. It’s called police work. The side story wasn’t believable and didn’t ultimately affect Lily’s fate. Why was it there?
I also had trouble with the disconnect between Ted/Lily’s backstory personas and front story actions. In backstory, they were presented as smart, crafty, and accomplished. In front story, they were reckless and made tons of mistakes. Why did they change?
Kind had a fun, twist-ful plot bogged down by characters hard to fathom. Yea or nay was a close call on this one. The tipping point for me was a cheesy, out-of-left-field twist at the very conclusion. It was too much of an easy out and made the book the kind worth recycling.