Kill the Next One by Federico Axat
|Kill the Next One by Federico Axat|
|Reviewer: Mark Daniel Taylor|
|Summary: An engaging and thrilling mystery that relies on the reader's benefit of the doubt to deliver a twisting and turning story packed full of ideas. Although not perfect, it is an enjoyable read that never fails to take you by surprise.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 416||Date: January 2017|
|Publisher: Text Publishing Company|
|External links: Author's website|
After getting started with the opening chapters of Spanish writer, Federico Axat's Kill the Next One, you might be forgiven for thinking you are stuck with one of those machismo riddled tales where a middle-aged man with a mysterious past is forced to shoot or blunder his way through a by-the-numbers thriller. The spectre of Lee Child's successful Jack Reacher series creeping in around the edges of the page. The novel opens with Ted McKay and his Browning pointed to his temple. He has the perfect life, including a beautiful wife and two adoring children, but has discovered that he is also in possession of an untreatable tumour buried deep within his brain which is slowly killing him. However, right before he decides to take the shot and end his life, there is a knock on his door. Standing behind it is a man named Justin Lynch who tells Ted that he represents an all-knowing organisation that turns would-be suicides into opportunities to correct the imbalances of the law. Ted, instead of killing himself, could kill someone who really deserves it.
Although the first part of the novel is filled with interesting ideas and enough back and forth between Ted and Lynch (who seems to know more about Ted then is reasonable for even a representative of a far-reaching benevolent organisation) to get you through its opening, the murders and the melodramatic secrecy, in combination with the title, Kill the Next One, led me to think that the other three parts of this book were going to be similarly Childish. But I was wrong.
And therein lies the dilemma of describing the plot any further. Made up of four parts, as Kill the Next One moves from one section to the next, it pulls from beneath you any presumption you might have about where its story was headed. The pulpy first section, which not only has Ted spying on and killing an unjustly freed murderer but being a bit of a superior arsehole at a party where all of his old school friends are fawning over him, wants you to think that you are stuck in a blunt thriller and rather brilliantly feeds on your feelings of pretentiousness and prophecy so that by the end of it you feel just as unsure of what happened and what did not as the traumatised protagonist. To discuss the actual plot of the book past this point feels like it might betray its greatest strength. Albeit, what I will say is that Ted's problems with his brain do not stop at a tumour and his troubled psychosis manifests in a manner that is truly chilling at times. It is no coincidence that Justin's second name is Lynch.
That is not to say the book is perfect. I cannot tell if it is Axat's writing that is the problem or David Frye's translation, but while the characters are intriguing, they all speak a little too flatly and with an over reliance on cliché or are lumbered with discussing exposition instead of what they might be thinking or feeling. Even when Ted is speaking with his therapist, Laura, as the story takes its many twists and turns, the discussions of how Ted feels about his adulterous father or his years as a chess prodigy give way to drawn out speeches on the next revelation of plot.
Also, although the book is a clever subversion of the thriller, it is still unable to escape some of the more male-orientated aspects of the genre. The few women who feature in the book, notably Ted's therapist Laura and his wife, Holly, are either presented through the perspective of a man or by how they look. Holly's most regular appearances include her dressed in a red bikini (a recurring memory of Ted's) and a whole new male character is introduced half-way through the story seemingly for the sole purpose of having a man describe Laura and how she looks (she looks great, of course). A scene at a college frat party near the end of the book is likewise a little too obsessed with the voluptuousness of a co-ed's swinging breasts to be considered well-written. A concession to a book revolving around a male psyche is one reason for this, sure, but there is no counterbalance to these portrayals and since the resolution of the plot does not ultimately rely on the bikini or the breasts, I felt there was little cause for them either.
There is a lot to like in the book, particularly its second half, where questions and answers dance for our amusement, but the great ideas it hides within itself cannot entirely excuse its sometimes tired writing.
Kill the Next One has a lot in common with a good Stephen King story. Mr Mercedes is good comparison for its mixture of crime, thriller and the odd.
You can read more book reviews or buy Kill the Next One by Federico Axat at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Kill the Next One by Federico Axat at Amazon.com.
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Well done to the reviewer. A very interesting review explaining that this novel is in four parts which I didn't know. I now know what to expect when I purchase this book.