The Tourist Killer has an intriguing premise: an assassin who's apparently one of the good guys (or gals, in this case) is paid to take out very bad people. She's a sniper who has made a lucrative career of assassinating men and women who prey on society rather than sending them through the criminal justice system. The concept got my attention, and author FC Etier does an excellent job of making the book riveting as well, at least for the most part. At times the narrative becomes frustrating, however, which brings it down a notch or two.
Professional assassin Claudia Barry is good at her job. The Tourist Killer opens with her taking out a serial killer who has eluded police for years. That job done, she's thinking of getting out of the business after years of compartmentalizing her personality: cold, ruthless killer when on the job, then painting and relaxing on a beach until the next. First, thought, she's hired for one more job: to kill Brian Farrell, head of the London-based ITTA corporation and an almost thoroughly evil man. When old friend and lover John Hixon is hired as a bodyguard by the man Farrell wants killed, things may grow even more complicated in a loud finale where who is supposed to assassinate whom may finally become clear.
I read The Tourist Killer in almost one sitting on a Sunday. Etier plays a few tricks with his prose, some clichéd but others that I admired. When Claudia first gets her assignment, there's some nice misdirection in figuring out whether the person Etier's talking about is the person doing the hiring or Claudia's target. I did a double-take when I discovered the truth.
A breathtaking sequence involves Hixon and his attempt to protect his client on a motorcycle ride through a twisting, turning mountain road in Tennessee. The fact that the ride actually happens strains credibility even given the man's personality, but the sequence itself is very well-written, the tension rising off the page.
Unfortunately, the pace slows down at times, whether to get into diversions about the top one percent of the top one percent and how these movers and shakers control the world, or to have characters tell each other things that they already know. That's one of the most annoying things in any storytelling medium: when characters say things that the other person would know as exposition for the reader. What's even worse (and Etier commits this sin too) is when the characters actually acknowledge that they already know these things.
While this threw me out of the book every time it happened, I was quickly reabsorbed by the persistent hooks of Etier’s writing. The conclusion is especially like that—confusion reigns, shots ring out and assassins cross paths. Identities are revealed, and you wonder whether some of the hanging character threads will be dealt with in the next book or two. Some of them are quite surprising, which greatly enhances the chance of picking up the next books. Nevertheless, The Tourist Killer is a complete book in itself and an excellent first novel by Etier. I look forward to reading more books involving these characters.
Disclosure: the reviewer is an acquaintance of Mr. Etier, being friends on Facebook and having corresponded about blogging.