Bill Ison,
KillRod: The Cross of Lorraine Murders
(Outskirts, 2007)

In recent years we have been inundated with thrillers that have some rather esoteric cause and effect governing the hero or protagonist, and this book is no exception. But this is not a garden-variety thriller written to a set scenario. Bill Ison brings a fresh, spacy, almost breathless style to the genre.

In fact, he manages to do something that many writers try but fail miserably at, and that can make me despair of a book. By some literary skill or magic touch he can leap back and forth in time by weeks or even hours without losing or disorienting the reader.

There are a few minor quibbles I have with the book and I will dispose of them now. Neither is strong enough to damage the book. I would prefer the subtitle as title. KillRod has a meaning in the story, but it sounds too much like a name for a series of video games. Also, the early years of the protagonist Monk require a bit of a suspension of disbelief. I can see the reasoning in creating it, but it does defy logic a little.

Having made those points, this is a book to relish. He writes of things that he knows -- well maybe not the killing bits -- and it shows in the attention to detail without being overly flowery or descriptive. The inclusion of actual characters peripherally add greatly to a tale we know is fiction, but these touches can make it feel real.

The primary setting is Hollywood with a few side trips in pursuit of justice. The hero, Hart St. James, is a sculptor working on movie sets who gets romantically involved with a big star. When she is murdered it sets him on a trail of revenge and investigation to find out why she and some friends ended up dead. Along the way we get some great action writing, but also insights into Hollywood, politics, the mob and police work.

The anti-hero is well drawn and motivated, although some of the latter is too convenient. He is a trained killer with a world quest and a talent for amassing money that can fuel his obsession.

All good fiction revolves around pursuit and revenge in some form, and if we were honest most of it could last about 10 pages if we used logic. I think of James Bond stories, if the villain simply shot him rather than set up elaborate tortures he would not get the chance to escape. By this logic we accept the plot devices that allow us to enjoy the ride.

KillRod is well worth the admission price to the ride, and whether you prefer thriller, conspiracy or just plain good adventure, this is for you.

Well done, Bill -- hurry on to the next book.

review by
Nicky Rossiter

5 April 2008

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