Friday, January 4, 2019

Book Review: "The Killer Collective" by Barry Eisler

"The killing business has its own gravitational pull, and if you get too close, or stay too long, you'll never break free."

Man oh man, Barry Eisler knows how to write thrillers! His books featuring "retired" hitman John Rain, and his newer books featuring troubled sex crimes detective Livia Lone are fantastic, but this one really hits a home run. Way to get my heart pounding!

Livia is leading the Seattle Police Department's involvement with the FBI in a joint investigation of a child pornography ring when she and a consultant discover that there are some pretty influential people caught in this horrible, tangled web. But as Livia searches to identify the culprits, the investigation is quickly shut down.

Of course, Livia is not one to be easily dissuaded—until she finds herself the target of an attempt on her life. If it weren't for her police-sharpened instincts and her martial arts skills, she probably would have been killed, but instead, you should see the other guys. Still, it doesn't take an investigative genius to know that she has stirred up a hornet's nest, and it's one that is going to get infinitely more dangerous if she doesn't drop the matter. And the likelihood of Livia walking away from children being put in the worst kind of danger is nil.

Ironically, the hit on Livia, along with two other people, was originally offered to John Rain, who refused, both on principle (he never kills women) and because he didn't like the attitude of the person trying to hire him. This refusal proves to be a bit dangerous for him and two former colleagues who connected him with the potential customer. Suddenly Rain's retirement looks to be a thing of the past, as he tries to figure out what is behind all of the violence.

When Livia calls on former Marine sniper (and Rain's best friend) Dox for help out of her predicament, he turns to Rain. It doesn't take long before they've essentially created a squad of highly trained killers to try and go after the mastermind of the whole circle of violence. In addition to Rain, Dox, and Livia, there's Rain’s estranged lover (and Mossad agent) Delilah, lethal black ops soldier Daniel Larison, and their former commander, Colonel Scot “Hort” Horton. No one should want to cross this group—but they know all too well someone will, soon enough.

The race to kill before being killed, and capture the person behind the hit on Livia and the squelching of the child pornography investigation takes the group across the world, before everything explodes in Paris. Lives are at stake, but so are some complex emotions—love, anger, fear, loyalty, betrayal, and revenge.

The Killer Collective meshes together Rain, Livia, and characters from Eisler's previous books so well. While there are references to previous books, even I didn't read some of them, and yet I didn't find that a problem at all. Not only is there some fantastic action, double-crosses, and impressive weaponry, but Eisler doesn't just give you stock characters—these are complex characters with layers of emotional baggage and, in some cases, long-standing friendships and relationships. This makes the book so much richer.

The book takes a little time to build up momentum as it sets everything up, but once it does...boom! There was just so much to like about this book, the same way I've felt about every one of Eisler's books I've read through the years. For me, having Rain, Dox, and Delilah together felt like dropping in on old friends, and adding Livia to the mix added to the book's complexity and emotion.

Essentially, Eisler has created a more literary version of The Expendables—that movie series that brought together Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Jet Li, Chuck Norris, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Bruce Willis, and other action heroes.

Amazon First Reads and Thomas & Mercer provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

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