Fate up against your will
The Kills is a 2013 Man Booker Prize nominated volume from Richard House which is comprised of four stand-alone novels. The Kill is the third of these novels.
Richard House is about to put an extreme amount of faith in you as a reader, but the real question is how much do you trust him as a writer?
As book three of his addictively mind-blowing epic The Kills gets underway, it appears as though House has hit the pause button on his tale of military conspiracy in order tell a completely different, yet just as interesting side story about a grisly murder that takes place in the basement of an Italian palazzo. Trust him. Even if this drama seems unconnected to the main narrative that’s been building for the previous 500+ pages in the series, this detour will eventually make some sense.
The most impressive thing about The Kill isn’t the murder itself, but the head-spinning details that swirl around the crime and turn it into something that borders on legendary. Having read an old paperback book about a (questionably) fictional murder, two brothers decide to take it upon themselves to recreate the crime for fun. They succeed and are never brought to justice. The story of their recreation then becomes the subject of a movie, but while the movie is busy shooting on location, the brothers resurface to claim another victim. As a result, the filming of movie about the real life event inspired by the first book then gets turned into a book of its own. It’s art imitating life imitating art imitating…
Granted, in describing the premise that way, it does appear that I may have entered that dreaded zone that’s often referred to as spoiler territory, but I assure you that I’ve revealed nothing that isn’t already teased throughout both Sutler (book one) and The Massive (book two). Whether he was drawing the reader in with the strange translated crime novel that Eric was reading, or taunting them with details of the movie that Cathy and Rem went to see, House took every opportunity available to subtly lay the groundwork for what was to come.
On its own, The Kill successfully manages to be a very complex, character driven story that keeps the reader guessing throughout. However when examined in the intended context, as book three of a four part series, it becomes increasingly more difficult to assign a grade with regards to its overall merit. Not wanting to reveal how book four manages to tie the first three together, and thus risk really entering potential spoiler territory, I’m left in the unenviable position of trying to place a value on this entry based on the how it relates to the beginning of the series, and not its end. If I’m being honest, I have to admit that I was left frustrated and more than bit dissatisfied with the stand alone nature of the piece.
Its accessibility, the idea that you could read this book on its own without any prior knowledge of the series, can be just as much of a selling point as it can be a weakness. Fans of the first two entries will no doubt love the tone and style of writing which stays consistent throughout, but will loathe the lack of recognizable characters, settings, and situations. For those reading in the proper order, just when they thought they were maybe starting to figure things out and put some pieces together, House maddeningly pulls a ‘Damon Lindelof’, invoking a Lost-equse brand of storytelling by temporarily abandoning everything he’s built and every character that he’s introduced up to this point, in favor of moving in a much different direction. It’s a big gamble, but ultimately it’s one that pays off.
Frustrating as it may seem at the time that it’s being read, The Kill is a necessary and essential component of the The Kills. Just don’t approach it looking for any answers with regards to bigger questions of the conspiracy at hand, because as good as this volume is, there are none to found here.
The Kill (The Kills: Book Three)
By Richard House