KILL AND BE KILLED by Louis Begley


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The second in a series of suspense novels featuring a war hero–turned–bestselling novelist who prefers to exact justice through lethal rather than legal means.

Begley, who’s best known for his “Schmidt” novels (About Schmidt, 1996, was made into a film starring Jack Nicholson), returns with a follow-up to his recent Killer, Come Hither (2015). The result is less a sequel than a continuation, one that provides plenty of plot summary from the earlier book and finds protagonist Jack Dana proclaiming, in his typically stilted fashion, “I guess we’ve run out of the killers who actually do Abner’s dirty work. That leaves us with the master puppeteer himself, Mr. Abner Brown.” A Texas tycoon who could have been created by Ayn Rand, Brown is involved in all sorts of drug laundering and terrorist activity, a dirty underworld beneath his legitimate empire. “I’m richer than Buffett, smart guy, by the way, and that clown Bill Gates. Steve Jobs? An appliance salesman,” he says. His credo: “I kill because I can.” In this novel, like the last one, someone Jack loves has apparently committed suicide, though Jack suspects differently, and he knows who is ultimately responsible. Meanwhile, he must dispatch another batch of intermediaries to get to the source. He partners with a glamorous lesbian lawyer who was best friends with his former girlfriend, and a subplot involves whether the two will ever spark a romance. Jack could, in the words of one of his friends, “maybe straighten her out. I know you’re a monster and all that, but you’re an attractive and rich monster. A lot of women would be happy to overlook your faults.” Alas, the book offers few plot twists to untwist, and its inevitable climax feels anticlimactic. And the protagonist has to be the only early-30s Manhattanite who would say, “I, blasphemous Jack Dana, proclaim to the four winds that vengeance is mine, and not the Lord’s, and it is I, Jack Dana, who will repay.”

Begley has written plenty of better novels than this, and there are plenty of authors who write novels like this better.

Pub Date: April 5th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-385-54071-1
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Talese/Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2016


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