Matthew's Reviews > Killshot

Killshot by Elmore Leonard
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Mar 19, 09

Read in December, 2007

I love a good Elmore Leonard crime story, he's long been one of my favorite authors, but the man must have written Killshot in his sleep. It's a painfully simple chase story involving an innocent married couple on the run from a pair of dumb (but dangerous) criminals. That's about it. No classy caper or head-spinning plot twists to take in, just a lite version of The Getaway with revenge instead of money as the prime incentive, although the couple involved in this particular thriller aren't nearly as interesting as Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw.

The story begins with protagonist Carmen Colson attempting to stave off a mid-life rut. Her son has left home to join the Navy, and her steelworker husband Wayne only seems to care about hanging around the guys at the bar after his shift is through. Carmen manages to find a new job in an office, an office that just so happens to be the target of two aspiring criminals, trailer trash ex-con Richie and Mafia hitman Armand. Unfortunately, the pair of thugs stop by whilst Wayne is visiting his wife at work, and mistake Wayne for Carmen's boss. Their attempt to extort Wayne for untold amounts of money fails miserably, the steelworker giving both Richie and Armand a damn good thrashing for their troubles. With bruised hides and egos, Richie and Armand plot a murderous revenge on the Colsons, terrorizing their residence on a nightly basis. Upon discovering Armand's Mafia ties, the police convince Carmen and Wayne to enter the Witness Protection Program and leave their Michigan home immediately for a new life in Missouri. Trouble is, the Federal Marshall assigned to their case is incompetent, and it doesn't take long before Richie and Armand are hot on the Colson's trail again.

One may speculate on why both villains would go to such great lengths to get lethal revenge over nothing more than a little asswhoopin' they received at the hands of Wayne. The author addresses this by conveying to the reader that Richie is a complete psychopath capable of anything and that Armand is just 'along for the ride', a jaded lifelong killer on the verge of going off the deep end anyway. While the idea of these two knuckleheads risking absolutely everything on unwarranted bloodlust is a little hard to accept at times, you can definitely buy into the rotten and tainted nature of both characters. The fact that these two will eventually turn on each other is telegraphed from their very first meeting, it's simply a matter of when.

The biggest flaw of Killshot is the husband and wife duo of Wayne and Carmen. These two fight like cats and dogs, and admittedly Leonard has captured some of the typical bickering, the maddening differences between men and women that will probably never be resolved as long as this planet continues to rotate and revolve around the Sun, but verbal brawling is all Wayne and Carmen ever seem to do. We're supposed to believe they have an exceptionally strong love for one another that can endure the wanton violence and chaos they've been randomly drawn into, but there's nary a moment of affection or tenderness between the two of them. If it was a real life couple fighting with each other this much, the subject of divorce would have been broached a long time ago.

Killshot still has its share of page-turning moments, snazzy dialogue, and a couple of offbeat, quirky characters you've come to expect from Leonard's yarns (Richie's former prison guard girlfriend Donna, who has a house full of Elvis memorabilia and feeds the criminals TV dinners every night), but one will be hard-pressed to remember what exactly Killshot was about a week after they've read it. Recommended only for the Leonard completists or those curious about the recent straight-to-DVD movie starring Diane Lane and Mickey Rourke.
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