In Cherry’s (Sweep Rowing, 2014) novel, a young married couple share their love of rowing, spending time at the gun range, and handling contract killings for a covert organization.
Tom Martin was always a bright kid and managed to become a skilled oarsman by the time he made it into Princeton. But his life changes immeasurably when a bank robber who enjoys killing hostages murders his beloved foster father. After Tom successfully interrupts the robber’s subsequent heist, “the Group” makes contact to offer him a regular gig—contract proposals for assassinations. Tom reluctantly tells Emily, the love of his life, about his new job offer. Luckily, Emily’s interested in joining him, having already offed a rapist who victimized two of her friends. They squeeze contracts among their meals, marriage, and family visits. The novel can sometimes be playfully cynical, offsetting the characters’ lethal occupation. For example, after a hit, Emily lovingly tells Tom, “Well done sweetheart.” The tone, however, is generally earnest, and the back stories for the co-leads provide credible, sympathetic reasons for why they would commit murder. Similarly, Tom and Emily relentlessly analyze everything, from whether or not they should categorize themselves as serial killers to the possible consequences of denying a request from the Group. Their questioning of their actions so much makes the two seem like a typical couple and much less like cold killers. It’s even easy to forget the killings when there are constant reminders of the familiar, loving duo, like Emily repeatedly singsonging Tom’s name, “Taaaaum?” Cherry bolsters his tale with a bit of mystery: Emily finds evidence that suggests her father, retired cop Cal, is a murderer as well. And while most of the hits go off without a snag, later chapters add suspense when the stakes escalate and injuries occur. The book unfortunately ends a little too suddenly and feels more like a setup for a sequel than a resolution.
Killers for hire make a surprisingly charming couple in this straightforward thriller.