Killing Hope is a crime thriller by Keith Houghton. I tend not to read crime thrillers, much less review them. The reason is that when the author is male then it's usually only a matter of time -- typically around 4 pages -- before breasts are mentioned, which I find tedious, puerile and pandering to the lowest common denominator of readership. Either that, or the author strains to display his new man credentials to the point where the preparation of his every meal is catalogued in minute detail -- which I also find tedious.
So what drew me to this book? The answer, which may or may not be helpful from a marketing point of view, is that I thought the author seemed like a nice person. Simple as that. I attended the London Book Fair 2016, and Houghton was on one of the author panels. He seemed fairly uncelebrity-like, and answered a question I asked in a straightforward and helpful manner.
I also noticed that he seemed to hang around the Author HQ area a lot, chatting to people. Now, maybe he had nothing better to do, or suffers from agoraphobia at conferences, but I come across so many self-styled celebrities who act like divas that I found this all very refreshing.
I realise that so far this isn't reading much like a book review, but I think it important to point out that, like it or not (and I don't, to be honest), we are always marketing ourselves.
Also, I was intrigued by his statement that the book was set in America. I think it's pretty hard for an English person to write a book set in America convincingly.
So, I decided to give one of his books a whirl.
I was not disappointed. On the whole I enjoyed the book for the following reasons:
- The detective hero is not stereotypical. As far as I can tell he doesn't talk about breasts or his culinary activities, and he also is vulnerable (both physically and emotionally).
- The author has a real ear for language. In many respects the writing reminds me of Raymond Chandler's and Dashiell Hammett's. That is to say, "hard-boiled". (I had a go at such writing myself once, in the form of a short story called The Big Sweep.)
For example: "When you’re caught between a rock and a hard place everything’s gritty."
"Getting healthy in here was killing him."
And an original description of himself (the story is written mainly in the first person): "A tired-looking man in dire need of a shave reached toward my fingertips as I reached for the handle. He helped me slide open the big door."
(So as a writer, it's worth reading this book for seeing how language is used.)
- It was unputdownable because of the cliffhanger at the end of each chapter.
- I've been to America several times, and I found the descriptions and "atmosphere" very convincing, meaning the author's research has been meticulous.
There were some aspects of the book I didn't like much:
- The ending. But I suppose that, to wheel out an old saw, it's the journey that matters, not so much the destination.
- I'm a gentle soul, and I have a bit of an aversion to dead bodies appearing every five minutes. That's another reason I tend not to read thrillers much.
The downsides were not enough to deter me from starting the next book in the series though. With lines like "From an early age, men are taught to be strong, to keep a stiff upper lip in the face of adversity, to believe that tears are a sign of weakness. In other words, we are conditioned to be assholes.", I don't think I'm going to be disappointed.
To buy Killing Hope, click here: Killing Hope. (Please note that this is an Amazon affiliate link, and that purchasing the book by that means will help me to put a few meagre crumbs on my family's kitchen table.)