Kill and Tell, by Linda Howard

>> Thursday, July 15, 2004

I recently reread Kill and Tell, a book I remembered as one of my favourite Linda Howards.

Still reeling from her mother's recent death, Karen Whitlaw is stunned when she receives a package containing a mysterious notebook from the father she has barely seen since his return from the Vietnam War over twenty years ago. Unwilling to deal with her overwhelming emotions, Karen packs the notebook away, putting it—and her father—out of her mind, until she receives a shocking phone call. Her father has been murdered on the gritty streets of New Orleans.

Homicide dectective Marc Chastain considers the murder nothing more than street violence against a homeless man, and Karen accepts his judgement—at firt. But she changes her mind when her home is burglarized and accidents begin to happen. All at once, she faces a chilling realization: whoever killed her father is now after her. Desperate for answers, Karen retrieves the only think that links her to her father—the notebook he had sent months before. Inside its worn pages, she makes an unsettling discovery: her father had been a sniper in Vietnam and the notebook contains a detailed account of each one of his kills.

Now running for her life, Karen entrusts the book and its secrets to Marc Chastain. Together they unravel a disturbing story of politics, power, and murder—and face a killer who will stop at nothing to get his hands on the kill book.
I still very much enjoyed the romance in it, but it wasn't exactly as good as I remembered. A B.

The problem was that Kill and Tell has a lot more emphasis on the suspense subplot than I remembered. I'd say about a third of the book is devoted to scenes showing the plotting and machinations of the villains, and I'm afraid that bored me out of my head. Luckily, I remembered the bare bones of it, so I could just skim over those sections and zero in on the romance.

Not only were these parts very uninteresting, I must say that certain things in them made me very uncomfortable, like when they talk about John Medina's father, Rick, and his work as a sniper in Vietnam, the author portraying as a "righteous kill" an "execution, not a murder" the torture of two Vietnamese done with the purpose of teaching a lesson. As Howard herself puts it: "after that, the young American soldiers had enjoyed a bit more safety when carousing in the Saigon bars and whorehouses". That makes me want to gag.

Completely ignoring all this, the romance was pretty good. It should be creepy, how Marc focuses on Karen on an instant and coolly decides he wants to have a relationship with her and starts deciding which steps he needs to take to manipulate her into agreeing fast, before she needs to leave. However, even if intellectually I recognized how creepy it is, I still found it all very satisfying.

So, basically, my grade for the romance would be a B+ verging on an A-, but the rest of the book lowered it quite a bit.


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