Published by Faber Faber on September 3, 2015
'Hello there.'I looked at the pale, freckled hand on the back of the empty bar seat next to me in the business class lounge of Heathrow airport, then up into the stranger's face.'Do I know you?'
Delayed in London, Ted Severson meets a woman at the airport bar. Over cocktails they tell each other rather more than they should, and a dark plan is hatched - but are either of them being serious, could they actually go through with it and, if they did, what would be their chances of getting away with it?
Back in Boston, Ted's wife Miranda is busy site managing the construction of their dream home, a beautiful house out on the Maine coastline. But what secrets is she carrying and to what lengths might she go to protect the vision she has of her deserved future?
A sublimely plotted novel of trust and betrayal, The Kind Worth Killing will keep you gripped and guessing late into the night.
Why have I read so many books so far this year, thus assuring my own self-destruction by July? The world may never know. That said, I have had Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson on my radar for a while now, and so I figured I should read something of his first to ensure I have a taste for his writing. The Kind Worth Killing starts off in an airport, and since I’m flying this weekend and have already read a book about a plane crash (Dear Edward) this month, I figured I should up the ante and read about murder conspiracies in an airport bar! I’m pretty glad I did.
Applicable PopSugar 2020 Prompts: A book by an author with flora or fauna in their name (Peter Swanson), A book featuring one of the seven deadly sins (I think literally all of them are here y’all), A book with a main character in their 20s (I believe Miranda and Lily are both in their late 20s)
How I’d Describe This Book to a Friend
Imagine this: you’ve been married a few years now, and you’re pretty happy. You are filthy rich from pulling out of the dot com boom at exactly the right time, and now you live in the lap of luxury, building your wife her dream home in the northeast and wondering if you’ll always be the complacently, boringly happy. And then one day, you find out that she’s cheating on you – not just with anyone, but with the contractor you hired to build her dream home! What the fuck, man.
You go away on a business trip and are in the airport bar about to fly home about a week after learning that your wife a brazen hussy, and you’re knocking one back when a gorgeous redhead sits down next to you. You have more to drink, she introduces herself as Lily. You introduce yourself as Ted. Loose lips sink ships, and in this case ‘ships’ is you revealing that your wife Miranda is sleeping with your contractor, Brad. Lily – equally emboldened by alcohol – asks what you want to do about that when you get home. You wink awkwardly because you’re smashed, and say you wish you could kill her.
“I think you should.” says Lily, serious as a heart attack. But you were just joking … right?
From there, we’re off on a premeditated murder spree through four different POVs – Ted’s and Lily’s, as well as Miranda’s, and a police officer’s near the end. What you initially think will just be a book about a guy conspiring with some lady he met at an airport bar to have his wife offed turns out to be way more detailed, and far more in-depth than just a simple killing. We flip-flop back and forth in time for the first 50% or so of the book, going all the way back to when Lily was very small in alternating chapters, which helps afford us an opportunity to see why she is … frankly, in very stark need of psychiatric help.
When we’re not in younger Lily’s head, we’re in Ted’s, and eventually younger Lily’s POVs stop and are replaced by Miranda’s and the officer’s. Swanson is amazing at ending a chapter in such a way that you were going to put the book down and go do something else, but now you can’t because you have got to know what happens next, so you read another chapter so you can get back to the POV you were just on … anyway, that’s the story of how I read a 400+ page book in two days. (If you’ve been here a while, you know that this does not happen. Ever).
The Bottom Line
There is a subreddit called “Am I The Asshole?” where people go to post their version of a polarizing event that’s happened in their life to see if the general public thinks the OP (original poster) was in the right or in the wrong, with subjects like “AITA for mixing meat with vegan food on a camping trip?” Respondents reply with an abbreviation: YTA (You’re The Asshole), NTA (Not The Asshole), NAH (No Assholes Here), or ESH (Everyone Sucks Here). The point I’m trying to make here is that if The Kind Worth Killing‘s plot were posted on the AITA subreddit, it would likely receive a unanimous, resounding ESH rating.
Everyone involved here is a terrible person. Ted sucks, Lily sucks, Miranda sucks, Brad sucks, even Kimball the police officer sucks. This is a book chock full of morally grey people, and none of them are really good enough to root for, so you’re mostly here with a popcorn bucket drinking this in, seeing who will fall to whom and when. This is a chaotic clusterfuck of a book, and it’s a damn delight. My biggest regret is that I waited until 2020 to read a book that came out in 2015 – I could have loved it so long ago!
Best of all, my least favorite trope – Mr. Big Red Bow Ending – is not present. There is nothing I hate more than reading a thriller and loving it, only to get to the very last chapter or epilogue and sigh because everything is tied up in a big, shiny, unrealistic bow. Swanson does us a great service here and gives us None Of That Shit. It’s gritty, realistic, and amazing. Go read some AITA posts because they always make me feel better about my own personal chaos tornado, and then go pick up The Kind Worth Killing. Just maybe don’t leave it behind in an airport for another passenger to read when you’re done, because they might look at you funny.
“Truthfully, I don’t think murder is necessarily as bad as people make it out to be. Everyone dies. What difference does it make if a few bad apples get pushed along a little sooner than God intended? And your wife, for example, seems like the kind worth killing.”
“Everyone has a full life, even if it ends soon. All lives are complete experiences.”