It has been ages since I’ve read an entire novel as fast as this one. I am a product of the “in-between” generation. I grew up before the internet, but I was still young enough to get sucked in by all the wonders of 21st century technology. As a result, I also now have a 21st century attention span. I share this, because this is the first book in a long time that has made me read the way I did in the 1980’s and 1990’s: cover-to-cover in one sitting.
Jamie Sinclair is a private investigator who lives and works in Washington D.C. She is experienced in her field, and skilled in hand-to-hand combat and firearms to a proficiency that exceeds what one would expect. In a variety of situations, she proves to not only have the skills to deal with the situations thrown at her, but also that she has the sharp mind to solve the mystery presented in the book. Nichole Christoff presents Jamie as a strong and capable female protagonist without the fact that she is female being overly exaggerated. She’s female, she’s a great P.I., and that’s all you need to know. It’s not feminist, but it is female-empowering.
That mystery is not what it seems at first. I find it hard to describe any details of the plot without spoiling part of the story, else I would share more of what happens. What I can say is that the plot is so full of twists and turns that as soon as you think you know what is going on, you are either told that you were wrong or that what you knew wasn’t as important as what you didn’t know. I am being purposefully vague, because I really don’t want to spoil anything!
The Kill Chain is a pulse-pounding tale of criminal suspense that hits the nail on the head in so many ways that it is hard for me to categorize all of them. First off, this is a by-the-numbers action thriller at its core. Don’t let that turn you away, because in this genre that is a good thing. When I read a crime suspense or action thriller novel, I have set expectations about what I will find inside. The same can be said of any genre. Meeting these expectations is objective number one for any good genre writer.
Where The Kill Chain sets itself apart, however, is in how many ways it bends the rules without breaking them. These original spins on the genre make this a book that will not only meet reader’s expectations, but greatly exceed them as well. The first thing you will notice is that the tone of the book is far different from your typical contemporary crime novel. This is written in a definite noir style, and it is done amazingly well. As a fan of the style, I noticed it right away. Most readers would probably just notice something different about how the book sounds. Written in a first person perspective, it has an astounding attention to small every-day details. Jamie Sinclair’s Washington D.C. has a gritty and lived-in feel.
Another bent rule is the fact that there is a romance underpinning the entire novel. I’m not usually a fan of romance sub-plots in a book like this that are more than an afterthought, but Christoff makes it work here. As a protagonist, Jamie is very well fleshed out. As I have mentioned, she is an assertive and independent character. The romantic tie that builds over the novel adds a layer of vulnerability and humanity that respectfully serves to round out any rough edges the character may have had. This isn’t to say it makes her weak or soft, just that it completes the picture of a believable real person by adding emotional depth.
I was pleasantly surprised by The Kill Chain. I looked forward to an interesting thriller, and was treated to something much more than I expected. This novel is a pulse-pounding page-turner that you will not want to put down. Combined with interesting characters and a narrative style that hearkens back to the old hard-boiled detective stories of the pulp magazines, this is a unique and fun read that I would definitely recommend to anybody already a fan of the genre or interested in trying it out.
This is book six of a series, and in my research I found the other books to be highly recommended as well. The Kill Chain definitely stands on its own as a great novel, and I never felt like I had missed something that I should have known about. Comments from those who follow the series support that one can read each book without worrying about missing anything. In the tradition of the serialized protagonists of old, the Jamie Sinclair series seems to be one you can either read start to finish or jump in anywhere in the middle.
Nichole Christoff is a writer, broadcaster, and military spouse who owes Jane Austen, James Thurber, and Raymond Chandler for her taste in fiction.
Find The Kill Chain on Amazon.
About the Reviewer:
B.K. is a full-time author of science fiction, fantasy, and horror inspired by the pulp fiction magazines of the early 20th century. Find more from B.K. at his website HERE.