The Redemption of Charm Frank Westworth
Killing Sisters Book 3
This is my first venture into the world of the killing sisters and, pleasingly, there’s more to this book than I was anticipating. The violence, and for that matter the sex, is pretty graphic, satisfying for anyone Jonesing for a blood fest, but there are long periods of thoughtful plotting and character exploration here too. This is not just an action thriller, it’s a decent story of broken, villainous and marginalised characters clashing in a violent world.
It took a while to figure out how I felt about The Redemption of Charm and to get comfortable with the style. Chapter one had me torn between the pleasurable anticipation of impending violence and getting to grips with the fragmented writing. Westworth likes word play, which is fun, but he also likes disconcerting the reader. There’s method here though: the anti-anti-hero, JJ Stoner, is a mess, a busted up man, his head’s in pieces, he’s come from hell and even the tranquillity and isolation of rural America retreat can’t patch him up without the natural curative of time. The writing reflects JJ Stoner’s battered mental state, disorientation and loneliness. He’s got a story to tell but it’s scrambled in his own mind, it’s got to be teased out.
So JJ Stoner is damaged and dangerous, ex-black ops, an experienced soldier and killer; but, is he a powder keg or a burn out? His last operation was a cluster-fuck of betrayal. JJ is a bit like another JJ, Joey Jones, (Jason Statham), in The Hummingbird (2013). Of course, JJ here is short for Jean-Jacques an illustrious name handed down from a philosopher via a punk rock legend to a tempestuous killer.
August this year, deepest America; three local guys are soaking up the beer and chewing the fat, it’s a nice evening but for the gunshots that keep cracking in the distance. That’d be JJ who has already worked through twelve magazines. Joshua, the local law, already checked this Brit guy out, the Feebs say hands off, he’s ok, he’s on our side but he’s dangerous, don’t spook him. Next day JJ calls into the sheriff’s office for a chat. JJ tells sheriff Joshua that he’s just here to rest up, if people leave him alone there’ll be no trouble. Rather than put his mind at rest the sheriff is more afraid of JJ and what he might bring by the end of their pleasant little chat. JJ actually arrived the September before, found himself a shack to shack up in, looking to heal. By October Associate Deputy Director Travis turned up, he thinks JJ could be useful to the US, along as he can ditch the Brit loyalty, then he can stay.
So what’s JJ’s story? There’s this guy, Mr Hartmann, known as Hardman, he set up an operation, set JJ to catch an assassin. Only Hardman was controlling the assassin, JJ was the one supposed to die. Then Hardman could forget the past, the link to JJ, and get on with his stellar career. JJ began figuring stuff out though, Hardman was sleeping with his girl, Lissa, (it didn’t end well for her), JJ confronted Hardman, big mistake he didn’t kill him. It’s unfinished business but can JJ get it together well enough to fight the fight.
Liking JJ is tough, he’s totally fucked up and even on his best day he’s got a mean/mad streak in him – an anti-anti-hero. The slow burn element of the novel surprised me but the long set ups and contemplative moments add to the fun. Cross, double cross, revenge, a heavy touch of tongue in cheek humour and sex. If I’m honest this novel is a little overlong but it is entertaining and capable to throwing up a surprise or two.
The Book Guild Ltd, paperback, 2017. ISBN: 9781911320555