Review: The Good Killer (Harry Dolan)

I liked the idea – a couple, creating new lives under new names to escape a past we don’t immediately know about. The execution of it, though, left me feeling a bit meh.

Sean and Molly are living in Houston under new names, years after ripping off an art dealer in a heist in which Sean’s friend Cole, was killed. The art dealer wants revenge and the stolen materials back, and the dead man’s father (who seems to be some kind of low level gangster) just wants revenge.

One day, when Sean is at a mall – which the author tells us is the largest in Texas, or something or other – when an obsessed man grabs a woman from the store in which she works and starts shooting other shoppers. Sean walks up to him and calmly executes him with one shot each to the chest and head. After helping a couple of the injured people, he leaves. Security footage, though, gets out into the world, and now the people who want their pound of flesh know where he is.

While they make their way to Houston, Sean bugs out, heading to Montana to pick up Molly, who has gone there on a retreat. Along the way, we get some Legend of Billy Jean type narrative, with an auto repair shop owner and a local Sheriff recognizing Sean from the mall video, but not doing anything about him and allowing him to go on his way.

Jimmy,the dead man’s father, and his sidekick make it to Montana before Sean, and try to kidnap Molly in order to force Sean’s hand. But they miss, and Molly hops into Sean’s car, as he has arrived just in the nick of time. Afterward, Jimmy tells his sidekick all about what happened to Cole, so the readers….I mean, so his sidekick will know why he wants to find and kill Sean.

It goes on like this for awhile, but not before we collect a lot of other characters along the way. Events converge on a single location and there is the requisite people dying at the end and another transformation.

The narrative was not particularly compelling and was also supremely annoying. First, it seems everyone and their brother got some narrative time, sometimes in the middle of someone else’s narrative (something that was done for no good reason I could see; the second character’s piece could just as easily been said after the one it broke into). Second, the writing style was full of short, declarative sentences. Lots of them. In both dialogue and narrative. Sentence fragments, too. Many of them. Third, we got a lot of step by steps of what the characters were doing. Like this:

“His hiking boots are in the trunk. He puts them on and locks the car. He sets out for one of the hiking trails, but after only a few paces he turns back.

There’s a Glock nine millimeter in the glove compartment with a shoulder rig to hold it. He sits in the passenger seat and straps it on. He reaches into the backseat for his gray windbreaker. He puts it on to cover the gun.”

This sort of thing is all over the place.

Finally, it’s in present tense, of which I’m not really a fan.

It’s serviceable, and a fast enough read. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it, either.

Three stars out of five.

Thanks to Grove Atlantic/Mysterious Press and NetGalley for the review copy.