The Killing Kind

Written by Chris Holm

Review written by LJ Hurst

Initially, L. J. Hurst worked in the backrooms of the media industry. He now divides his time between work for an international scientific publisher and a rather more British independent bookseller. In years past he was a regular attendee at the Shots on the Page Festivals from whence Shots Mag sprung

The Killing Kind
Mulholland Books
RRP: £14.99
Released: August 27, 2015

Mulholland Books is Hodder's 'pulp' imprint - crime fiction that moves fast and has a man with a gun come in through the door when nothing else seems to be happening. If you know Chris Holm's name it may be that you have encountered some of his short stories in various pulp-infused anthologies. He made a sideways move with his first trilogy, 'The Collector' books, published as paperback originals by Angry Robots in fantastically retro mock-Penguin covers, though, because Sam Thornton, the eponymous Collector, is a collector of souls, sometimes redeeming such hallows, that takes him out of 'Black Mask' territory into fantasy. Now Chris Holm has abandoned the 'F.' in the middle of his name and given us another saviour in an unsavoury world: Michael Hendricks, who is one of the killing kind.

We are in the world of paid assassins, hit-men, contract killers and the generally despicable, particularly as such characters tend to be even worse than the gangster bosses who hire them. Then there is Michael Hendricks, veteran of foreign wars, who has lost nearly everything important to him, who has returned to the USA with the one skill the army gave him and which he has not lost. Michael Hendricks, too, is an assassin. He, though, is prepared to hit the hit-men. For a fee. And on the understanding that in taking out said bad men, he is saving some unattractive figure only from undeserved death at that moment. The men he saves, unlike the souls redeemed by Sam Thornton, are not saved for eternity.

Now, if you have one gang boss putting out a contract on some rival or cheater or stooge and said boss finds his killer being killed, say in broad daylight where someone has managed to disable all the CCTV, that boss is going to be angry. That boss is not only going to keep his contract open, he is going to open another on the anonymous figure we know is Michael Hendricks. Those who take the business are not the sort to have any moral qualms whatsoever. There are going to be whackings on the way, and then some.

I am not going to give you any more hints to the story than this. We are already in a three-way street. The police and the FBI object to any sort of unofficial killing, more so they feel aggrieved when they have no idea who is doing what to who or why or when it may happen again. So now we are on a four-way street. Then Chris Holm concentrates it, when all these figures come together, mingling in the animal-like crowds of a cheap casino function room. It is a car-wreck and Holm stage-manages it all like a pro.

There is an escape from the casino in a fashion which recalls an earlier thriller book and film, but the final confrontation goes back to originality when enemies come to blows among the woods. Overall, The Killing Kind, may not be just pulp, it could be the whole tree.

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