Wednesday, September 12, 2012

"Killer Move" by Michael Marshall

Bill Moore is a real estate agent with perhaps more ambition than brains, and is currently trying to convince the owner of a block of expensive condos - Tony Thompson - to spend a little money on upkeep and improvement. He aims to one day own his own real estate agency. Life is pretty good for him, with a beautiful wife and expensive home - until he finds a card left on his work desk with just the word "modified" on it.

Other mysterious events start to occur. Items he never ordered on the Internet start arriving. Photos he never took appear on his laptop. E-mails he never sent start appearing in other peoples' Inboxes.

Meanwhile, a man by the name of John Hunter has just been released from prison and appears intent on getting revenge on the people who put him there. He shoots and kidnaps a man so that he can torture the names of the people he wants out of him. What is the connection between Bill's current situation and the parolee bent on revenge? Eventually, the two plot strands connect....

"Killer Move" is a huge, huge, HUGE improvement over Marshall's previous novel "Bad Things", which I thought was one of the worst books I have read. Marshall has thankfully dropped the supernatural, mildly sci-fi elements of "Bad Things" and "The Intruders", and returned to the conspiracy-based themes that permeated his Straw Men trilogy. He does an excellent job of releasing pertinent information at the right time to let the reader know how the two plot strands are connecting. Small snippets you read about earlier gain significance later on. And he doesn't try to draw out the revelations. He's able to drop clues here and there to help connect the dots without leaving the reader completely in the wild, but also without giving the entire game away. After a slow start (the first 30 pages or so aren't exactly thrilling as Marshall goes into WAY too much detail about real estate), this one really kicks into gear and keeps you furiously flicking the pages.

Ultimately, I think Marshall bit off more than he could chew. As the novel progresses, it begins to get a little messy. References to the Straw Men are thrown in at the last minute in an attempt to wrap up all the different storylines. It was a cheap tactic, as this is not a Straw Men novel. Even though I devoured the novel pretty much in one sitting, hindsight has uncovered more than a few plot holes. I can't really get into them here without spoiling everything. So this is the point where I do this:


Cassandra, who had been presumed murdered but is actually very much alive, is revealed to have been behind much of the mayhem, as she was recruited to "clean up" the mess generated by the "Modified" game, and keep an eye on David Warner's serial killing activities. But if she was supposed to terminate the "Modified" game and clean up loose ends, what is she doing killing a person and writing "Modified" on a bedroom door with their blood??? Then faking her own death???


"Killer Move" is definitely worth a read. It reels you in and keeps you hooked with nicely timed revelations and plot twists. Marshall may not have figured out a good way to tie everything together, but he certainly gave it a good shot. Those driven away by the truly terrible "Bad Things" should give this one a shot. It may not match the suspense of his Straw Men trilogy, but it's the closest he's come so far. While the references to the Straw Men found here are gratuitous, it gives hope he might re-visit those themes in future novels.

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