4 stars out of 5
After I finished this book - which I received free in exchange for a review - the first thing that came to mind is how on earth to describe it. The writing is tedious, ponderous and downright esoteric in spots. The experience was a lot like driving through a heavy snowstorm; if you don't maintain total concentration, you could end up where you don't want to be. Put another way, don't even think about breezing through this one with one eye on the Ohio State game.
That said, it's very well done. Did I enjoy it? Not exactly. No lovable characters here (in fact, they're barely likeable). The head honcho, JJ Stoner, used to be a hired killer - first in the military and then in private practice. His art hasn't been wasted since then, but now he does it on his own behalf when the mood strikes. He's a biker and a musician (he plays blues guitar at a local club to let off steam and get in touch with his inner self). His friends - if in fact they could be called that - are even more strange. They, too, speak in riddles and behave in mysterious (to me) ways.
Here's the deal: Stoner, who now takes on covert investigations for intelligence agencies, looks into a series of particularly grisly murders (think lots of blood and missing body parts) that may have been committed by sisters - the book is subtitled "Killing Sisters Book 1," BTW. Early on, a former military friend who's now in the same business as Stoner shows up, apparently to make nice. Each is wary of the other's intent, though, and they're near equals in the successful killing department - so they agree to hold hands to keep from fighting (for the time being, at least).
As for romance, you won't find it here in the traditional sense. There's no shortage of relatively graphic sex, most of which falls way outside the norm, at least in my world. These scenes don't cross the line to gratuitous, although in fairness, I'm pretty laid back (no pun intended) when reading such stuff; still, to say they're a bit on the kinky side would be an understatement.
Bottom line? If you like very dark thrillers and have a place you can hole up and read this one undisturbed, it's definitely worth a try - although I won't guarantee that you won't be a bit disturbed by the time you finish it.
A Last Act of Charity by Frank Westworth (Book Guild Publishing, September 2014); 432 pp.