Ten thousand dollars to kill someone. Would you take that challenge? Before you say, "No, of course not," let's set the scene. You just lost your job. You can't find another one. It's been months. Bills are piling up that you know you can't pay; your wife deserves better, your daughter deserves better - don't they? Ten thousand dollars would solve all of your problems. It would stop the phone calls, stop the bills that you can't pay coming in and growing bigger with each day the mailman brings the mail. It would let your wife buy things that she should have. It would let your daughter have the things that you want her to have. It would solve your problems. Ten thousand dollars to kill someone. Would you take that challenge? Would you?
Neil Matthews does. Sure, he has second thoughts. He thinks he should turn back. He thinks it isn't worth it. But, in the end, he does it. He has his orders, and he does it. He already has the money in his account – “good faith money,” it’s called. The other money will come, the bulk of it when his half of the deal is done. It’s an old man whom he is supposed to kill, in his game room in the basement, an old man he does not find. Instead, he finds a young man waiting for him, a young man who apparently knows that he is coming. When Neil gets to the house, he creeps to the basement where he should find the person he has been paid an initial fee to kill. He is surprised to find the young man, however, who tells him that he has been waiting for him; now that Neil is there, the "game could begin." Neil is shocked and confused. What is happening? He has been given strict instructions. Simple instructions. Now everything is turning upside down. Nevertheless, Neil does what he was paid to do. He kills the young man with the knife that he carries. After the man dies, Neil is estatic. He now gets the rest of the money; he has done his job. The wall opens. A man, no, the man who offered Neil the deal stands before him with two other men. Neil believes that the men are here to give him the rest of his hard-earned money. They are not: they are there to kill Neil Matthews. The man who offered the deal tells Neil that Neil lied - lied to the young man about having no weapons when the "game" started. So, Neil's punishment is death. The man shoots Neil dead - twice.
Enter Roy Poole. Convict. He gets out on parole to work for a man named Neville Aspinwall. Roy Poole is ex-Marine (incidently, so was Neil Matthews.) His work is to kill. His boss is a very paranoid man, always thinking that someone is out to get him. Neville also runs a game called the killing league, a group of eleven members, all very prominent, some even in the government. These members wait for their chance to play the game. The game is kill or be killed, and they are usually the ones to kill. Of course, because their victims do not understand that it is their turn to die, the members have an unfair advantage.
However, someone has changed the rules. Someone is killing the killers in the same manner that they have been killing their unknowing victims. Neville decides that someone inside the group must be leaking information to the victims, giving them a fair chance at beating their assailants. He's not sure who it is, so he calls Mr. Soule and tells him that he wants a meeting with three of the members who might have something to do with it. This is where we find out that Mr. Aspinwall is crazy with paranoia and a cold-blooded killer. After the meeting, he still is not sure who is the guilty party, so he instructs Roy to kill the three members. Roy does this with ease.
Neville's relationship with his daughter is not your typical father-daughter relationship but a very sick, incestuous union. His reasoning for this relationship is the fact that he does not like people: he believes that they are dirty, so he starts this awful relationship with his daughter so that he doesn't have to "dirty" himself with anyone he does not know. Although he hates himself for the lust he feels for her, he cannot stop himself. Author Philip J. Carraher does a great job introducing and discussing this relationship, being careful not to dwell on it too much. However, readers will most likely find this part uncomfortable to read.
His daughter, Maritza, is a beautiful, intelligent woman. She is keeping secrets of her own from her father, whom she affectionately calls "Daddy" after each time he leaves her room. She does it because she knows he hates it. She also has a surprise for her father toward the end of the book in another plot twist that is very well-written and comes at just the right time. She also has a relationship with Roy. The reader might feel a little sorry for her; however; I did. One gets the feeling that she wants love, real love, so desperately that she will do almost anything to get it - even tricking Roy into doing something that he does not even realize is happening until it’s too late.
The "heroes", if they can be called thatm are Mr. Soule, who is part of the league (or so we are led to believe), and Mr. Prophete. Neither is who he claims to be, but certain events lead to the explanation of who they really are and what they are doing inside the league of killers. How they fit into the game is well constructed by the author, as is everything else in this book.
The twists and turns in The Killing League will have readers gasping out loud. Carraher does an excellent job of keeping the reader at the edge of their seats, and I certainly look forward to reading more of his books in the future.