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We met in April to discuss Kill Fee by Owen Laukkanen. This was our first book by this author and #3 in a series featuring investigators Stevens and Windermere. The author lives in Vancouver, Canada, but sets his books in Minnesota. Stevens works for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and Windermere is an FBI agent. The still end up working together when the two agencies have a case they share.

In this case, the two are trying to locate and shut down a website that is set up as a kill for hire site. The book was a thriller rather than a whodunit. So the reader knows who was behind the whole scheme, but we were able to watch the police hunt him down. The mastermind, if you will, would stalk group therapy meetings for veterans with PTSD and approach the most damaged looking young men and “train” them to be contract killers. His training process included locking them in a dungeon at his lakeside cabin and playing extremely loud and violent videos 24/7 until he would eventually turn it off. He brainwashed them to a point where they turned to him to make the violent images stop. In the case of his main killer, he told him that if he killed enough people for him, he would make the visions stop. What the mastermind didn’t count on was his killer meeting a girl and realizing he was being manipulated into being as assassin. Stevens and Windermere eventually figure it all out and save the day.

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Dave led the discussion AND brought snacks. The cake he brought was the screen of the Killswitch website when access was denied. Peg listened to the audio book with him and came up with the idea. Very ingenious, thanks Peg.

Dave gave us some background on the author, since as I said above, he is a new to us author. He’s very young, so will be writing for quite some time, yay – more books. Several book club members were starting to read books #1 and #2 in the series. Which tells you that they enjoyed the story. Dave did point out that this book was his least favorite in the series so far. So if you loved it, they only get better. If you hated it, maybe there are better ones.

On the whole, the book was well received. We got a lot of discussion out of the way the mastermind, Parkerson, “trained” the men and we guessed at the reasons behind why he started the whole process. Some of the positive comments were that we liked the author’s writing and how he made us like Lind, the main assassin and asset #1 (even though he was, well, an assassin). It was a cat and mouse game, and many people enjoyed that. It was face-paced, an easy read (Jeff compared him to John Sandford), and the usage of veterans with PTSD was believable (albeit extremely disturbing). We enjoyed the psychological twists and turns too. There were several comments on the use of extremely short chapters. Quite a few people liked it. Dave listened to the audio version, and I think he commented that it was noticeable.

Some of the main criticisms revolved around Stephens and Windermere’s attraction to each other. Most of us just didn’t buy the attraction or the way they went about it. It was a wishy washy “I like him, does he like me” kind of thing. I think Judy said it best when she said, “I saw the attraction but I didn’t care.” Some of us didn’t like the character development, or what we believed to be lack thereof.

Next month we will meet exactly one week early, on Monday, May 18th. We will discuss In the Blood by Lisa Unger. Kerry will lead and Amy will provide snacks. See you then.

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