Friday, September 18, 2015

"The Killing Kind"

Chris Holm is an award-winning short-story writer whose work has appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies, including Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Needle: A Magazine of Noir, and The Best American Mystery Stories 2011. His Collector trilogy, which blends fantasy with old-fashioned crime pulp, wound up on over forty Year’s Best lists. David Baldacci called Holm's latest, the hitman thriller The Killing Kind, "a story of rare, compelling brilliance." He lives in Portland, Maine.

Holm applied the Page 69 Test to The Killing Kind and reported the following:
The Killing Kind is the story of Michael Hendricks. Once a covert operative for a false-flag unit of the U.S. military, Hendricks was presumed dead after a mission in Afghanistan went sideways. He left behind his old life—and beloved fiancée—and set out on a path of redemption... or maybe of willful self-destruction.

Now Hendricks makes his living hitting hitmen. For ten times the price on your head, he’ll make sure whoever’s coming to kill you winds up in the ground instead. It’s not a bad way for a guy with his skill-set to make a living—but it’s a great way to make himself a target.

So, how did Hendricks fare on The Page 69 Test?
His line of business wasn’t the sort you advertised on Google or in the local Yellow Pages. Any point of contact, physical or electronic, was a potential liability—a chance for an interested party to track his movements and pinpoint his location. Which is why Hendricks insisted on initiating contact with potential clients, rather than the other way around. Half the time, the folks he approached had no idea they’d been marked for death until Hendricks told them. Some refused to believe him. Some believed him, but decided to go it alone. Some bought in right away. The ones who declined his services didn’t always come to a bad end, but their survival rate was less than stellar. Those who paid fared significantly better. In the three and a half years he’d been doing this, he’d yet to lose a single client.

The key was identifying them early enough to scout the job and make the proper approach. Early on in his career, Hendricks had simply tailed known hitters and identified their targets by hanging back and watching—but that made his margin for error razor-thin, and damn near got him killed a couple times. One particularly nasty job ended with his client safe, his target dead—but not before the bastard buried an ice pick three inches deep in Hendricks’s chest. After four days holed up in an abandoned warehouse, trying to keep the bleeding under control while he waited for the antibiotics he boosted from a veterinary clinic to take effect, Hendricks decided it was time for a new approach. That’s when he brought Lester in.
Not too bad, I suppose. I would’ve preferred a hooky action scene—a cliffhanger, maybe. Instead, page 69 finds Hendricks sitting down with his best friend and partner-in-crime, Lester, to identify a new client, a new job. It’s a quiet moment in an otherwise chaotic novel, and I used it to flesh out Hendricks’s peculiar business model. I don’t mind telling you that the client he and Lester ultimately identify proves a disastrous choice—one that damn near gets both of them killed.
Visit Chris Holm's website.

--Marshal Zeringue