So I just finished reading The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson and thought that it was pretty great. For the most part, it’s a fast-paced and intelligent thriller that constantly reinvents itself to keep readers on their toes. A few elements of the novel bring it down but overall, I have no problems recommending this to someone…especially seeing that I think it’s a better Gone Girl than Gone Girl.
The Kind Worth Killing is about a guy named Ted, who has just worked out that his wife, Miranda, is sleeping with their building contractor. While waiting for his delayed flight in an airport bar, he meets a plucky young redhead named Lily, who he talks to about his marital problems. After confessing that he wants to kill Miranda, Lily offers to help him do it. It’s an awesome set-up, and this made me buy the book straight away, but what’s better is that this premise in itself is not what the whole book is about. Rather, the book is sort of a series of three interconnected vignettes which include different POV characters (the only constant being Lily).
It’s nice to see the world of the novel change so much three times, where other novels would only change once over a long period. It’s nice to have that structure, and after the first major switch-up happens, you start to actually see what the novel is really about. Yes, it’s about this affair and Ted and Miranda, but it is also a character-piece about sociopathic Lily.
Lily is an incredibly damaged and deranged character, who could kill Gone Girl’s Amy Dunne three times over over morning cornflakes. After Gone Girl’s twist, Amy Dunne seemed to embark on a series of genuine fuck-ups which unknit the character we perceived her to be. The Kind Worth Killing‘s Lily seems much smarter, and overall much more dangerous. She has a detailed history, that Swanson revels in showing us, and that’s because it’s a lot of fun.
Unfortunately, The Kind Worth Killing does unravel rather dramatically. The final part is where things start to get a bit silly, and Swanson seems to want to wrap things up morally as well as satisfactorily. When so much of the narrative before-hand is about gleefully rooting for the bad girl, it seems weird to shift into more traditional territory. It’s not a deal-breaker but it is easily the weakest part of the novel.
The Kind Worth Killing is a gleefully devilish novel, with engaging characters and a wonderful premise. The central character, Lily, is a convincing sociopathic killer who readers will want to root for more often than not. While Swanson doesn’t quite stick the landing, The Kind Worth Killing is well worth the journey.
THE KIND WORTH KILLING by PETER SWANSON