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The Kind Worth Killing -- Review - With Spoiler

Murder Mystery & Mayhem:

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

Title: The Kind Worth Killing
Author: Peter Swanson
Publisher:  William Morrow/Harper Collins
Publication Date: February 2015
Hardcover Pages: 320 (Book Length actually 308 Pages)
ISBN -13: 978-0062267528
ISBN -10: 0062267523
Source: Purchased
Verdict: 5 out of 5
Purchase: Amazon

If you have not read this book, I suggest you read my non spoiler review of The Kind Worth Killing

I fell in love with this book and even found myself rooting for the sociopathic killer to get away with her crimes. Call me demented, I don’t know. 

Remember Patricia Highsmith’s novel, Strangers on a Train & Hitchcock’s film adaptation of the book?

The Kind Worth Killing — Strangers on a Plane

Swanson’s The Kind Worth Killing, is a dark psychological thriller that many readers have compared to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.  Hmm … another train reference. If you are a fan of either of the two aforementioned novels, this one will seduce you from page one and take you on a thrilling, suspenseful, mysterious, dark ride.

Lily Kitner and Ted Severson meet in a London Airport bar and then share several more drinks on an overnight flight to Boston. Cocktails lead to the truth game. Airplane fun. You tell strangers personal details you wouldn’t even share with your shrink. Ted is a wealthy, successful businessman; Lily, a gorgeous college archivist. The more they drink the more they reveal. Ted confides that his wife, Miranda is having an affair with the contractor working on their mega mansion. The man is taking his money and fucking his wife. When Lily asks Ted what he’s gonna to do about his wife’s infidelity, Ted, replies, with a grin, that what he really wants to do is kill her. 

Lily isn’t shocked or put off. In fact, she says, “I think you should.”

I’m hooked … reel me in.

A week later they meet and Ted is surprised by Lily’s casual demeanor when they again discuss murder. But, they form a plan. A plan to kill both Miranda and her boyfriend, the handsomely rugged, contractor, Brad. But … we all know that even the best made plans never come off without a hitch.

Please do not continue if you haven’t read the book, and believe me, you want to read this book. Don’t continue if you have not read the book and you do not want it spoiled.
                             Spoiler Alert

The Kind Worth Killing is divided into three parts. 

Part one: The Rules of Airport Bars

Part one is told in first person POV, alternating chapters between Ted and Lily. From Ted’s POV we learn about his life with Miranda and how he discovered her affair with the contractor. Lily, who is obviously more skilled in the art of murder gives Brad a blueprint to follow, so to speak. His assignment is to gather information, learn the comings and goings of both Brad and Miranda.

Lily’s chapters jump back and forth from the present to her past. We learn what motivates her to kill. We learn about her college boyfriend, his former girlfriend and her discovery of the two of them cheating on her.  She promptly fixes that problem by killing the boyfriend, but doesn’t decide to seek her revenge on the girl, Faith until later. You see, Lily may be a killer, but this killer had a code of ethics. If Chet was two timing both women then Faith is as innocent as Lily, but … beware, Faith, if you were in on the scheme and knowingly deceived Lily — she will exact her revenge. 

So all the while Lily and Ted are planning Miranda and Brad’s murder … they aren’t the only characters plotting a murder. Part one ends with a twist that blew me away … I never saw it coming. Not in a million years. You see, I considered Ted & Lily both protagonists of the book or the main characters. Part one ends with (remember I warned you of spoilers), Brad kills Ted. I read the final line and screamed what the fuck is going on here. He can’t be dead. But dead he was. This ain’t no vampire book. Dead is dead. I had really been looking forward to the developing romance between Ted and Lily, but scratch that because Ted is dead. And Brad isn’t remotely bright enough to have planned this on his own. He kills Ted, while Miranda is conveniently away for a week long trip to Florida. She’s alibi tight!

Part 2:  The Half -  Finished House

More twists & turns than spinning on the Tilt -A-Whirl as a tornado rips through the park and hoist the ride into the air. I’m not going to delve into each murder, twist and revelation. Part two alternates chapters told from Miranda’s POV and Lily’s POV. Of course, one of the big reveals is that Miranda used to go by a different name and is the girl Lily’s boyfriend cheated with. 

Part 3: Hide The Bodies Well (well has a double meaning)

Enter Detective Kimball. Part three alternates between chapters told from Kimball and Lily’s first person POV. Kimball becomes quite obsessed with Lily’s beauty and takes to following her on his own time. Lily likes the detective, but she can’t leave any loose ends, so in her twisted mind, he has to die. But … wait for it … another plot twist. She is caught in the act and he doesn’t die

What I loved & Didn’t Love — Notice I didn’t Say Like or Dislike:

I didn’t like the ending and that means I was rooting for a killer to get away with murder, so that makes me what … a serial killer groupie? Not even close. This was tough for me because despite her murdering tendencies, I actually liked Lily. Up until she attempted to kill Detective Kimball, Lily felt justified in each of her killings. Each victim wronged her — hurt her — deceived her. The author is such a brilliant and talented writer that he managed to create a character who kills people, but he developed the character in such a way that while readers may not have excused her killing, we certainly could understand her motivation.

It’s not that I approve of murderers going free. Quite the opposite. As a career prosecutor, murder goes against everything I stand for, every moral bone in my body.

Another reason I rooted for Lily to win in the end is because the book is full of so many bad guys — really bad people who lack decency and any sort of moral compass. But, Lily was the only bad person who killed for a good reason, even if you and I know that there is never a good enough reason to kill. Lily views murder as ridding the world of other bad dudes. Ending the lives of people who will continue to prey upon and harm others.

Until … she attempted to take Detective Kimball’s life

But deep down, Lily has redeeming qualities. She genuinely loves and cares for her parents. She feeds stray cats. Okay, well she did kill a cat when she was a kid, but in her defense that cat was going to kill her pet cat. She truly developed feelings for Ted. In Lily’s mind, she had to avenge his death. We just aren’t aware at the time that she is killing two birds with one stone, pun intended

Compare Lily to Miranda — both killers, but polar opposites. Miranda is a gold digging, hustler who kills for financial gain when a divorce would have netted her half of her husbands multi-million dollar assets. She conned the contractor, Brad into committing the murder, all the while knowing she would leave him holding the bag. Brad would either go down alone for Ted’s murder or Miranda would have to kill him. She could care less about his children. Miranda lies, cheats and intentionally hurts people.

Another reason I think I didn’t care for the ending is that after reading Gone Girl and the litany of dark, disturbing psychological thrillers that followed, many of us have come to expect the bad guy to get away. Even before Gone Girl … how many of you rooted for Tom Ripley? Or Dexter? It’s not like in your typical who dun it or legal thriller, where we insist the bad guy get his comeuppance.

I’m in the minority on this, but I liked the ending of Gone Girl. I see no other plausible way that story could have ended.

In a Nutshell:

I loved this book. I mean, I devoured it. Unlike some of my other recent (and not too recent) favorites, such as The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl, The Kind Worth Killing seized my attention from the get go and didn’t let up. This book hijacked my full attention for two days. 

However, I didn’t particularly like the ending.

Too many things were out of character for the brilliant & conniving woman who’d been plotting, killing, and getting away with murder since she was a child. Lily, never would have attempted to kill a cop, out in the open.  She could have stayed one step ahead of the detective. He didn’t have any evidence on her.  She could have used his obsession with her to her advantage. It seemed like the author needed a way to wrap up the book and I didn’t buy it.

And her biggest mistake of all … why bury Brad’s body in the well on the property adjoining her family home? Lily was too smart to have linked herself to Brad.

Okay. I didn’t like the ending, yet I’m still praising this book as possibly the best book I’ve read in years. Why? Because the author is that good. He is a master storyteller, his writing flows, and he is the Don Czar of twists, turns, and shocking reveals. 

With only two pages left, the author gives us the final twist. In a letter to Lily from her dad, we learn that the property where the bodies are buried has been sold and the bulldozing is in full swing. We are left with the vision of the police digging up bodies from Lily's personal burial site and her stint in a psychiatric facility quickly morphing into a long prison sentence.

Or … my wish … the author left the ending open ended and is planning a sequel which will be 300 + pages of Lily’s murder trial(s), where we’ll be treated to Lily using her charisma and devious plotting to charm the jury into an acquittal. Or for those of you who would rather her face the music, she might be convicted, but I know the author would have us on the edge of our seats waiting for the verdict.

What did you think of The Kind Worth Killing? You shouldn't be reading this spoiler if you haven't read it? I'm most curious to know how readers compare this book to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train? Which did you like best? Are you as into unreliable narrators right now as I am. It must be extremely difficult for a writer to do, if done correctly. This one was written perfectly.


Unknown said...

I really agree with most everything you said. Great book! You're not alone, I was rooting for Lily as well! I really liked it when the limmericks in Kimballs pockets and his actions were framing him to be stalking her. I guess Peter Swanson just wanted to give us one more jolt with the well twist in her fathers letter. I didnt think of it until you mentioned it, but I agree it seemed out of character for Lily to bury Brad in the well with Chet --- too risky. Overall great book. I was totally shocked when Ted died, and equally as shocked when we learn Faith is Mirands.

Anonymous said...

I think the ending was left open for the readers to guess. Either she will get caught when they find the bones in the well OR she will not because they will just bulldoze over it and lay concrete for a new structure
and then they will never find the bodies. I liked the book but I thought it became a bit unbelievable with all killings going on and then the way she tried to kill the cop ..well a not silly. I had figured once the cop got involved that she would somehow try and kill him too and that she would be the last man standing. ..but then how would the cops murder/disappearance ever be explained, esp. when others knew he was investigating her. I'd rate it 3 out if 4 stars.

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Anon said...

Just finished the book. It was okay I guess. I agree with the comment that the book was prettying unrealistic with all of the killings. The ending was cliche in my opinion. I don't know what I expected but I was let down only because I thought it'd be much better especially with all of the positive reviews. 3 out of 5

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Unknown said...

Love this review! Wanted to correct you, since I’m anal; it was ERIC who was cheating on her; CHET is the creep she killed as a teen �� I just needed to throw that out there. Otherwise: YOU SAID EVERYTHING I’M THINKING!!!!! YASSSSSS


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