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Book Author: Deanna Raybourn

KILLERS OF A CERTAIN AGE by Deanna Raybourn: Book Review

I will be totally upfront about this book–I loved it!  As a woman who is also “of a certain age,” I think it’s about time the mature woman received her due, even women who were, and are forced to become again, killers.

Billie, Mary Alice, Helen, and Natalie were young women in 1979.  That’s when they were recruited to join The Museum, as the secret organization was known.  The original members were from various resistance movements operating during World War II, and their mandate was hunting and killing Nazis.  At this they were very, very successful.

After the war ended The Museum turned their attention to other criminals–drug dealers, dictators, arms smugglers and the like–and began recruiting women; that’s when our four protagonists joined the movement and became skilled assassins.

As the book opens, it’s 2018 and Billie, Mary Alice, Helen, and Nat have been “retired,” not totally willingly.  In order to sweeten their termination, The Museum has given them a generous gift, an all-expenses-paid cruise to the Caribbean, a delightful escape from wintery London.

On their second day on the ship, Billie, the novel’s narrator, spots another operative of The Museum, dressed as a crew member.  She can think of a hundred reasons why he hasn’t made contact with them, none of them good.  Billie and Helen break into the cabin that belongs to “Kevin,” and discover the bomb that he has secreted in his cabin.

Then the door opens and the false steward enters.  A fight ensues, and Billie takes a string of amber beads, strung with piano wire, from her pocket and strangles “Kevin” with them.  However, it’s obvious to the women that when his death is discovered, a more skilled operative will be sent to take his place.

Billie remembers a saying from a former mentor at The Museum, “This is the only job where overkill is a good thing.”  It’s not precisely the way he meant it, presumably, but the four women are now convinced that “Kevin” was not working alone and that The Museum is behind a plot to kill them because they know too many secrets.  “Either we were meant to be blown up by the same people who cut our paychecks for forty years, or they knew it was going to happen to us and did nothing to stop it…,” says Billie.

And so Billie, Nat, Helen, and Mary Alice go on high alert to stop The Museum’s operatives from killing them.  After all, they reason, they were only doing their jobs when they assassinated the evildoers, so why should they be punished now?  They need to stop their former colleagues before those colleagues stop them.

The reader will be struck by the ingenuity shown by the four friends as they work to dispatch Museum members who are determined to eliminate them.  Thus it becomes a question of which group of assassins is stronger and smarter than the other.  The author has written a clever, up-to-date mystery in which the women are as tough and skilled as their adversaries.  I know which side I was rooting for.

Deanna Raybourn is the author of the Veronica Speedwell series and the Lady Julia Grey series, among her other works.  You can read more about her at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.