The Long and Short of It: The Kills

Book:  The Kills by Richard House
Format:  Hardback (Courtesy city of Melville Library)

I would be lying if I said I was excited to read this particular book.  The Kills is a 1000+ page novel about American contractors operating out of post-war Iraq, consisting of four separate novels as well as interactive content if you happen to be reading the book on a tablet or kindle etc.  The four novels are: Sutler, The Massive, The Kill and The Hit.  Sutler is the codename of the character introduced in the first pages, who has already been given a new identity but reverts to his old name after he is set up to take the fall for the embezzlement of large amounts of money from a contracting company.  He takes off across the desert with a professional hitman on his tail, and the overarching figure of his boss, a man named Paul Geezler.  The Massive is the name given to a project that does not officially exist, and this the project being worked on at the time of the embezzlement.  These stories by all accounts are somehow linked.  I would not know.  I never got that far.

This book is intelligent, well-paced and written with a tight control on language.  So why didn’t I finish it?

To begin with, the subject matter lies well outside my areas of knowledge and interest.  While one of the joys of reading is exploring exactly those, there is a certain point at which the brain just disengages.  When reading becomes a chore, it is time to switch books, and for this reason, I gave up after fifty pages.

Add onto that the fact that this is novel which speaks in a shorthand belonging to that particular area of interest.  There are business and military terms galore in The Kills and nary an index in sight.  All the characters (so far male) refer to each other by their surnames, and seem largely indistinguishable in their personalities and roles.  In short, I was not drawn to the world nor the characters it was peopled with.

One thing that did interest me was the subject matter I had read would be in the third book, ‘The Kill’.  Apparently if I had gotten that far, I would have been able to read about the book within the book, a novel about a bizarre campus murder which is gaining popularity throughout the novel, and is later mimicked in real life.  The point at which I stopped reading, this novel had already been mentioned by a young man Sutler sits with on a bus.  But the military and thriller aspect?  Arguably the whole centrepoint of the novel?  Really, 100% not for me.

And truly, life is too short to force yourself to read 1000+ page novels you are just not into.

If you want to read a review by someone who did like the book, here’s one from the Guardian.