Review

People Die

by Kevin Wignall

I do not know much about Kevin Wignall. The most important thing
I can tell you at this point is that he writes excellent books that
revolve around hit men. I am grateful for the re-release of PEOPLE
DIE, his debut novel, which is in a class all by itself.

The protagonist of PEOPLE DIE is a hit man named JJ. He is
rather young --- under 30 --- but very accomplished, carrying out
his trade on an international scale. The book opens with JJ
executing a businessman in Moscow, incidentally catching him in
flagrante delicto
with a woman who is much too young. He
breaks his own rule and lets her walk away, even as he regrets his
occupational largesse, convinced that it will come back to haunt
him. Two years later, JJ suddenly finds that he and everyone
connected with the Moscow assignment have inexplicably been
targeted for elimination. There are very few people he can trust,
and his pragmatic culling of friends turned enemies as PEOPLE DIE
proceeds is surprisingly chilling in its matter-of-factness.

One of JJ’s few remaining trustworthy friends is a CIA
agent who in turn refers him to a colleague who had a tangential
association with the Moscow job. The situs of their meeting is a
surprising one and sets the novel apart from the usual work of the
thriller genre. JJ finds himself traveling to New England to meet
with his shadowy ally at a bed and breakfast run by the family of
his Moscow victim. What is telling here, however, is the
interaction between him and his victim’s daughter, a teenager
half his age who is not much younger than the woman whose life he
spared in Moscow two years before. JJ is oddly attracted to this
girl on the cusp of womanhood, enjoying her company and, yes, her
platonic attention. Nothing improper occurs between them, either on
or off the page.

What is fascinating here is Wignall’s tacit acknowledgment
of the vulnerability of men to the attentions of young women, and
his presentation of how such matters are properly approached and
dealt with in order to give respect, not to mention protection, to
the innocent. That chain of events, in combination with
circumstances peaceful and otherwise in the quiet of the New
England countryside, leads JJ upon a quest halfway around the world
to confront the man who has unleashed a vendetta against him, a
journey that may well result in his own violent death.

PEOPLE DIE is one of those rare novels that is nuanced so
differently that it resonates with the reader long after the last
page is turned. Yes, it’s about tradecraft and those who
coldly carry it out, but in the end it’s also about people,
and the unpredictable. This is a tale well-told, demonstrative of a
talent that runs long and deep.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 17, 2011

People Die
by Kevin Wignall

  • Publication Date: May 1, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Paperback: 284 pages
  • Publisher: Pinnacle
  • ISBN-10: 0786020865
  • ISBN-13: 9780786020867