Review: ‘Killer Move’ by Michael Marshall

As a fan of crime novels, I was looking forward to reading this book by Michael Marshall – best selling author of ‘The Straw Men’ and, more recently, ‘Bad Things’.

The main character of this book, set in the Florida Keys, is go-getting estate agent Bill Moore. Bill’s got a good job, a great marriage and a beautiful house. He also has a five-year plan in which he imagines himself to be even more successful. To get this plan to work, however, he needs to make friends in high places. Everything seems to be going smoothly when a card that simply says ‘modified’ arrives on Bill’s desk. From then on, the five-year plan is the least of Bill’s worries as weird things start happening, people begin disappearing and it looks as though Bill is being framed.

I am the type of reader who denounces every crime book as poorly written if I guess the ending anywhere before the author’s big reveal. ‘Killer Move’ is not one of those books. In fact, having finished the book, there are a couple of loose ends I’m still not entirely sure on.

Stylistically, I found myself being pulled from the narrative because Marshall frequently underlines words or statements for emphasis where a more commonly used method is emboldening the text or using italics.

The story itself was slow to get going; I really felt no intrigue or even interest until over a hundred pages in. I felt Marshall’s writing was too self-conscious at times, and tried to be too clever.

With a thriller, I don’t want to read a character have an internal discussion with himself about his father being “an abstract noun, not a verb” and then considering the audience so intellectually challenged that he then explains what he means. The plot should be sufficient enough that the brain is challenged without the author needing to throw elaborate metaphors into the equation. I also felt that Bill’s voice was, at times, inconsistent; Bill not only discussed grammar but also used phrases like “personal beef”. It seems unlikely to have a character so articulate in one instance to then sound like a teenager in another.

Although I found it difficult to believe a seemingly normal guy could turn into an all-action hero within a few chapters, it did make me wonder: how does anyone know what they’re really capable of until their fight or flight mechanism kicks in? Perhaps if any one of us was put in a situation that meant we had to fight for our reputation, our sanity or even our lives, we would push ourselves as far as physically possible to protect those things.

I felt Marshall’s writing sometimes lacked emotional believability, for example Bill encounters several dead bodies but manages to have very little emotional reaction to them. However, when Bill thinks back to times with his wife and recounts them for the reader, I felt those passages were the strongest in the book. It made me realise how important Bill’s marriage was to him and how much he and his wife loved each other.

Sometimes I felt the cultural references to technology seemed forced and very deliberate although nearing the end of the story it becomes apparent why it was important that Moore mentions blogging and Facebooking so frequently. The idea behind the plot is quite an original premise and it really made me consider that if there was someone in the world who wanted to get information about you, or mess with your life there are so many channels in which to do so now. How many of us have our phone numbers or addresses of Facebook? Is your DOB on Twitter? Bill goes from being a technological wizard to, understandably, a techno-phobe.

Although there are flaws in this novel, I have to admit once it really got going I was intrigued and desperate to know what was going on. I had plenty of theories, with pretty much all of them being incorrect. Once his voice became more consistent, I empathised with Bill, whose life was spiralling more out of control with each passing moment. The paranoia that Bill was feeling, of who may be responsible for the ‘modification’ and why, had me mistrustful of almost every character in the book.

Michael Marshall’s often violent and gory writing really captures the horror of the inside of a psychopath’s mind. The slow start is a great device for gradually speeding up the action with the passing of time, to the point where you are practically left breathless by how much is going on.

This novel isn’t flawless but the premise is so unique and intelligently thought-out that I would recommend it to any crime fan. Fans of Linwood Barclay will love it.

Vic x

Order your copy of ‘Killer Move’ here:


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