Cannonball Read 6, Book 15: The Kills by Richard House

18224507Since I don’t want to be a total Debbie Downer about this book, I’m going to start with a positive. Ten years after first attempting to do so, I have finally ploughed my way through all 13 books on the Man Booker Prize Longlist. Some years I didn’t bother to try (mostly years when Hilary Mantel was on the list) and other years I’ve lost interest or had such a bad book experience with one of the novels that I’ve abandoned it. But, spurred on by Cannonball participation, I went all in with 2013’s list and now, finally, I can rest. After the ups and downs of said list, I don’t think I’ll be attempting a repeat of the challenge. Especially after ending on such a very long book, about which I have very little good to say.

Fellow Cannonballer Travis recently lamented that almost every book with a big page count he’s attempted has disappointed him and gone unfinished. All I can say is, Travis, don’t even go near The Kills. Four interconnected novels allegedly telling one massive story, it clocks in at 1024 pages in hardback form, a veritable brieze block of a book. Comprising Sutler, The Massive, The Kill and The Hit, House has apparently written an epic novel of crime and conspiracy. The publicity machine loves to tell us how House moves across continents, characters and genres and that 2013 did not produce a more exciting novel. Also, in a groundbreaking world first, House has created multimedia content to accompany the novel. Links to the appropriate content are noted throughout, they can all be found here. And while that’s all well and good, if you’re not going to write an interesting epic novel, then what on earth is the point?

The blurb also tells us that the book opens with a man on the run and ends with a body burned beyond recognition. That plus the previous excited tub thumping made me think I was in for a breathless, pulse racing, Bourne style read. How wrong I was. Even without those expectations though, I wouldn’t have been able to escape that The Kills is an overstuffed, overlong, over-populated, overambitious and overly dull disappointment. The conspiracy is never properly unravelled. Sutler is at the heart of it and disappears entirely for about a third of the book. When he returns, there’s three possible versions of him on the loose, we never find out who any of them actually are. The heavily sketched in backstory about an unsolved murder in Italy which may never even have happened (and the only element of the story to feature in all 4 of the linked novels) actually causes one of the characters to say this: “Perhaps someone will write a book about making a film about a story that is taken from this book which is taken from a real-life story that was copied from a story in a book. You know?” I don’t know about you, but I didn’t make it to the end of that little statement without wanting to smack both the person saying it and the author who wrote it.

The Kills is full of characters banging on so lengthily and so inanely, so if reading these kind of exchanges is your thing, then have at it. However, if you prefer your crime/conspiracy/action books to actually contain crime/conspiracy/action then this probably isn’t a wise choice. After acres and acres and ACRES of painfully incoherent and tiresomely dull chit chat between equally boring characters (the sisters in the final section, The Hit, really take the biscuit on that), the book winds to a drab and boring close. What’s more, as a final insult to the reader who bothered to stick with the book for the whole journey, it does so without resolving a single plot strand.

I didn’t bother to look at any of the multimedia content House created. He notes that the book can be enjoyed (his word, very much not mine) without them. The experience of those who have bothered doesn’t seem to be overwhelmingly positive, with one user noting that he reads books to get away from computers and another noting that the content of the website was just as boring as the book. So, all in all, while House should be commended for undertaking such an experiment, I can’t say that I found it to be a success.


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