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The Kills (The Kills #1-4)

3.19 of 5 stars 3.19  ·  rating details  ·  409 ratings  ·  96 reviews
This is The Kills: Sutler, The Massive, The Kill, The Hit. The Kills is an epic novel of crime and conspiracy told in four books. It begins with a man on the run and ends with a burned body. Moving across continents, characters and genres, there will be no more ambitious or exciting novel in 2013. In a ground-breaking collaboration between author and publisher, Richard Hou ...more
Hardcover, 1024 pages
Published July 18th 2013 by Picador (first published January 1st 2013)
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Sara Laor my answer is: no. I read 500 pages (half!) and then decided to abandon ship. The beginning is very promising, but then the narrative gets lost as it…moremy answer is: no. I read 500 pages (half!) and then decided to abandon ship. The beginning is very promising, but then the narrative gets lost as it switches between characters and they all become "victims" of some kind. Good to skip.(less)
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Nov 30, 2013 Lee rated it 1 of 5 stars
Shelves: fiction
The Kills is a quartet of novels that is meant to transcend such limiting labels as a particular genre. And in some respects it achieves that lofty goal.

Take the first of the four parts, Sutler. It's definitely not a thriller. At one point the main character misses a bus. He then hangs around a bit, then catches the next bus. At another point he tries to do some online banking, but the webpage times out, so he doesn't bother. This is the kind of gritty realism that I could get from a high defini
Cornelius Browne
Modelled on a masterpiece (Roberto Bolano's cerebral epic 2666) this is a similarly monumental book (over 1000 pages long) that likewise takes an oblique approach to storytelling. In short, it's a stunner. It eschews beautiful prose for confident writing that gets the job done, but often this job is the creation of a clammy, suspenseful atmosphere that infuses into the reader's life, and it's fascinating to see writing of this kind put to that use. Clouds of dread hang over the best pages of The ...more
A perplexing read. Usually half way through a book I will read the goodreads reviews and find myself vociferously agreeing with all those reviews which have the good taste to reflect my own views. This time I agreed with the one star reviews and with the five star reviews. At times this book felt like reading a "war and peace" for our times. In the Kills Tolstoys broad sweep of history propelling the characters inexorably forward is replaced by a sort of chaos theory where the greed of one indiv ...more
Note: Minus one star for the inordinate number of typos and missing words. Evidence of sloppy copy editing, it is highly irritating in a novel of such length and complexity. Having said that, this is the fastest I have ever burned through a novel of over 1 000 pages. The Kills is simply incendiary. Once you begin reading, it is nigh impossible to stop.

I gave a grim little smile and heaved a huge sigh of relief when I reached the end (well, what counts for the ending in a meta-novel that constitu
"The Kills" is a sprawling quartet of gut wrenching thrillers. While each can be read separately, it's apparent they're meant to be read as one whole book. In "Sutler", the title character is a consultant for a construction company in Iraq, on the run after embezzling millions of dollars. Or maybe he's a fall guy for a larger conspiracy . . . "The Massive" centers around a company of working stiffs at an illegal burn site in the midddle of the Iraqi desert. Exposed to dangerous toxic waste, cut ...more
My favourite book in the Booker 2013 Longlist, and possibly my favourite book/s read in 2013 so far.

This Telegraph review sums up my feelings pretty well - an epic read, bursting with complexity, brutality, and meticulous planning, without sacrificing on giving even the smallest and most tangential characters heart and three-dimensionality. I found the multimedia aspect (I read the 'expanded editions') a little jarring and tagged-on at first, but by somewhere in the second book was completely o
I don't need a book to end with a nicely wrapped package and a big bow, but come ON! The way this book was marketed, I thought that things would come together and that there would be some sense to the thing. I feel mislead. This book could have, should have, been edited way down. There were hundreds of pages of rolling pin reading - just going back over the same thing over and over and over again. So why didn't I just put it down? Because the book started off so good. I thought the author was go ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ben Dutton
At over 1,000 pages, The Kills is by far the longest novel on the 2013 Man Booker Prize longlist. It is by novelist, Richard House, and comes trumpeted as a multimedia experience, for House is also a filmmaker and there are short films that add to The Kills experience when viewed online or embedded in the digital edition.

The Kills is actually four novellas grouped together (the spine of the hardback states that these are Books 1 – 4, novellas individually titled Sutler, The Massive, The Kill and
Rosario (
This was part of my read of Man Booker-nominated books. I started with Harvest, which I really liked, and that one was a pretty quick read, so I was feeling confident. Plenty of time to read several before the shortlist was announced!, I thought. And then The Kills happened. This book by Richard House was one I wasn't sure would get on the shortlist, but it sounded pretty experimental and like it was hard work, which I thought the judges might value after that whole "readability" row a couple of ...more
So intense and purposeful at the beginning, so very full of potential. The first book set the puzzle, the second acted as a prequel to the first. Both were intriguing and enjoyable.

And then just got lost. The third book was barely related, a sideways distraction at best, a whole book dedicated to explaining a very minor running theme. The fourth book felt confused in it's purpose - whether to add more links, or explanations, or just tell it's own story. It did a little of all 3, but not s
Well - this book was certainly an interesting experience. It took a while before I realised that the stories were inter-related but could be read as individual novels in any order, but when I thought about that after reading them as they are presented in The Kills, I think that they need to be read as one work.

For me The Kills was a brilliantly written, intriguing, shocking and masterful. Too late, I found that the interactive web clips and sound bites could be accessed as you go along - maybe t
A tour de force! Very complex, mesmerizing, dazzling and unpredictable. Kept me awake for quite some nights. Reminded me of Roberto Bolaño's 2666.
The novel itself consists of four loosely-related parts. It starts as a political thriller but turns out to be much more than that. It is quite fast-paced, although there are slower bits. Richard House takes you from the Iraqi desert to Turkey, Malta, Naples, the US and Cyprus (to name but a few) and there are new characters being introduced all the t
What a long, strange ride. This strikes me as quite a considerable achievement in storytelling even if one is left somewhat befuddled by the end (though it's hard to know what "clues" one may have missed in a 1000+ page book read over a long'ish period). I think that reviews I've seen that stress the journey over the destination are right on here and I quite enjoyed the journey. Will likely tackle House's earlier stuff eventually (2 shorter novels). I also need to spend more time on the interact ...more
Robin Kirk
I'm putting this under "adult thriller" even though there's very little thrilling going on. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that, if House had been a female author, this book never would have been published. Editors would have focused more on the average -- and way too lengthy writing -- and not on any supposed "machismo" of writing about war. It's Mad Max: Fury Road from the point of view of the grunting Max -- there's a story here somewhere, but at about page 60 I started using the ...more
Helen Howard
The Kills starts well with an interesting premise and nearly 1000 pages later, you realise you've been fooled and a premise is all you're going to get. The author does a good job of creating atmosphere and tension but reading this novel is is like sending off your CV for a job application after job application and never hearing back. You see the job description, you think 'That looks good,' and there's no reply, no resolution, you don't even get a rejection.

I carried on reading in the vain hope
Stuart Halford
A elaborately plotted book that reminded me of Infinite Jest and The Corrections. There are also chimes of The Usual Suspects and The Hurt Locker from the film medium. The morphing nature of fictions and Urban Myth recycling are themes that are also in abundance. Can see plenty of scope for Sutler becoming the Booker equivalent of Slender Man and expect the Sutlers to start popping up in unlikely places - probably a band forming using the name even now!
Mona Lisa
From BBC "The 10 best books of 2014":

House opens his espionage saga, a quartet of tightly linked novels, with a mysterious command: “Listen. There’s a problem and it can’t be solved. You need to disappear.” The order comes from a top executive for a US military contractor that runs ‘burn pits’ in Iraq to incinerate excess weapons of war. The man known as Sutler, a newly hired mid-level operative, is soon on the run, blamed for embezzling a vast sum. He leaves behind a team of civilian workers, l
Interesting and very post-modern, but at 1000 pages, I wouldn't really recommend it to any but the hardiest readers. Quote from the book that probably sums it up best:
"and then ... perhaps someone will write a book about making a film about a story that is taken from this book which is taken from a real-life story that was copied from a story in a book."
I came across this book when the first part was made available free on the internet. That should have been a warning, but I ignored it and bought the whole thing - 4 individual novels which promised to provide a ground breaking multimedia experience with the urls to associated websites filling in background etc. the first of the four books was OK but a bit tedious in terms of plot line and characters, but I guess that was meant to be to draw you into the other three. Not so the other books were ...more
Gerard Tarpey
I tried, believe me I tried very hard, to get through this huge (over 1,900 pages on the iPad) novel by Richard House. But after struggling through a little over 1,000 of those pages I finally gave it up. I'll try my best to share what I experienced with this novel.

First, the book is really four different stories that may or may not tie together in the end (didn't finish it so I don't know). The opening story, Sutler, tells the tale of an American civilian company, HOSTCO, contracted to provid
Tony Nielsen
If you have ever been to a Billy Connoly gig you'll understand clearly what I am saying about the Kills. Billy starts a story, goes off the path, starts another story, but eventually brings everything together later in the show. The Kills is sort of like that but more challenging. At over 1,000 pages in fairly small print the desire to finish this book wilted at times but I was damned if I was going to give up. The story revolves around Stephen Sutler in post-war Iraq. He ostensibly works for on ...more
Helen Wilson
You will need at least a week clear of any distractions and a notebook to benefit from reading this book. There were times when I wondered whether the author was being paid by the word as the rather flowery descriptions and verbose passages were off putting. I found the level of research for the book, particularly the first section, engrossing and disturbing. Luckily for me I was in hospital for the first week of reading the book unable to walk far so I managed to get through the majority of the ...more
David Pierce
For the sheer audacity of the book/s, there is no other way to present the graft of the defense contractors in war zones. For the political storytelling that few writers tackle in such a timely manner ( except maybe Bob Shacochis). For writing about Naples, Italy, the most magnificent cesspool of a city that befits that part of he story and I love dearly. For being long enough to present the twisted political mess we live in and twist it back to the connections between far flung events and how t ...more
Greg Swan
The Kills is a highly intelligent, challenging read from Ricard House. At 1,000 pages, countless characters, settings, and an interwoven plot set across four books, it will take a commitment to stay along for the ride. Here's the best quote in the novel to give you a sense what you're signing up for: "Perhaps someone will write a book about making a film about a story that is taken from this book which is taken from a real-life story that was copied from a story in a book." If you followed that ...more
A war novel with no soldiers and no fighting. A mystery within a mystery novel. A meditation on fraud and memory. Whatever you call it, this massive story cycle or collection of related books -- shall we call it a quadtych (my own, very bad neologism) manages despite its 1,000 page length to hold one's attention with a cavalcade of characters, settings, hurling plots and, well, mysteries. It wouldn't work, of course, if the writing weren't so damned good, which it certainly is -- the chilly love ...more
Kristin  (MyBookishWays Reviews)
I'm breakin' this one down with a review for each of the 4 books that make up THE KILLS, and I'll add each review as they post.

The Kills: Sutler (

The Kills is a novel in four parts (originally published as four stand-alone books in the UK), and that’s how I’m going to cover it, as much for my sanity as yours. I don’t mean that in a bad way, at all, but at more than 1,000 pages, The Kills could be called…intimidating. It’s certainly heavy. But don’t let th
This review ran in the 5/1/14 edition of Library Journal.

House's (Uninvited) thousand-page epic, first published in Britain as four stand-alone ebooks (Sutler; The Massive; The Kill; The Hit) and long-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2013, is now collected in one massive omnibus. Modeled after Roberto Bolaño's labyrinthine 2666, the novel blends the geopolitical machinations of an espionage thriller with DeLilloesque levels of conspiracy and metafiction. In the first book, a government contrac
This omnibus consists of four books, which were released separately before this version was published. In book 1, Sutler, the main character is introduced: he is Stephen Lawrence Sutler, a British civilian contractor who works for HOSCO International, which builds facilities primarily in the Middle East and Asia, and is funded and supported by Western governments. He is sent to Amrah City in Iraq to oversee the conversion of a burn pit, used to incinerate waste from American and British military ...more
Jakey Gee
This is an intelligent, highly contemporary thriller-of-sorts. It's smart and evidently very 'meta' - built around the idea of fiction and storytelling; populated with identity-shifting, elusive characters and clever repetitions.

It's extremely '21st Century' or near-future in its scope: Middle East wars (I need to work out if he's even preempted civil war in Syria); Haliburtonesque corruption; Wikileaksy shapeshifting renegades and all round global skullduggery.

And it's ambitious, with multipl
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author with this name in the Goodreads database.

Richard House is an author, film maker, artist and university lecturer. As well as the digital-first novel The Kills, he has written two previous novels (Bruiser and Uninvited), which were published by Serpent’s Tail in the 1990s. He is a member of the Chicago-based collaborative Haha. He is the editor of a digi
More about Richard House...

Other Books in the Series

The Kills (4 books)
  • Sutler
  • The Massive
  • The Kill
  • The Hit

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“You think those cats care? You think other animals watch each other go at it and it does something for them?”
“Like cat-porn.”
“A tongue in a bag. Teeth. A room drenched in blood.” 1 likes
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