Killers of A Certain Age: A Book Review

Three stars.

I picked this up with moderately high hopes. The protagonists are all sixty-year-old ladies who spent their youth as private assassins. I thought there would be more old-lady thoughts, but in the end, they mostly seem like 21-year-olds in 60-year-old bodies. So, the character development and themes disappointed a bit.

What did not disappoint was the research and the plot. Unlike some novels, where the premise is only half-developed, this one takes us on a very thorough ride. We get to see how the ladies got recruited, how they got trained, and to see a number of hits they did in their youth, in exotic locations throughout the world. These interleave with hits they are carrying out now, in their old age, in self-defense. There is not just one but many tense, intricate, detailed climatic action scenes. And it all works together into one big, overarching tale of betrayal. It’s like not just one, but all of the Mission: Impossible movies, in novel form. If this had billed itself just as a thriller, then these factors alone would cause me to give it four or five stars.

But unfortunately, the cover and premise promised not just Thriller, but a study of what it’s like to be a woman of a certain age. Have your goals changed? Do you miss what you were able to do in your youth, or are you content with that and ready to move on to something else? Have you left a legacy? Had any children? Are you ready to go?

No, none of that. One of the four women has married, but the only effect of her recent widowhood is to make her lose her nerve in survival situations. Another has married another woman; another is still chasing younger men at sixty. Meanwhile, the main character, Billie, never married or had children.

He was six years older than me and ready to settle down, build a life, make some babies. And no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t figure out how to make myself small enough to fit into that picture.

page 309

So, Billie, you think making and raising people is a small life, huh? It is sooo much smaller than your life of traveling around the world killing people. You couldn’t reduce yourself to being a mom.

This quote pretty much encapsulates the book’s shallow yet heavy-handed feminism, and it is the reason I have bumped it down to three stars.

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