Review

A Killer's Kiss

by William Lashner

One
of my favorite literary passages of recent memory is found at the
beginning of PAST DUE, in which a police crime scene is compared to
a Nativity display. A KILLER'S KISS, William Lashner's latest
novel, contains an equally memorable passage about the ease with
which one can fall back into disastrous habits with an old lover.
It is this immutable truth that forms the basis for A KILLER'S
KISS, as well as for the fall from grace of Victor Carl, Lashner's
quietly deteriorating protagonist.

Carl has undergone a gradual but inexorable transformation since
Lashner introduced him in HOSTILE WITNESS. He has been the
antithesis of the stereotypical Philadelphia lawyer; a criminal
defense attorney whose clients' collars are dingy rather than
white, Carl will do whatever he can to win. His worldview has grown
darker and darker with each successive novel, and with A KILLER'S
KISS he is circling the drain ever faster and not without
assistance. As the book opens, Carl's law partner is on sabbatical,
and the firm is being kept financially afloat by a questionable
retainer. Carl, therefore, is not only bereft of adult supervision
but has the keys to the liquor cabinet to boot.

It is against this backdrop that Julia, Carl's ex-fiancée,
abruptly comes back into his life, seeking amnesty and something
more. For it is on the night that Julia appears on his doorstep,
ready to close the deal that she abruptly reneged upon years
before, that her husband --- the man she left Carl for --- is
murdered. As she and others seem bent upon making him the fall guy,
Carl has a difficult time seeing through the fog of his lust that
he is being set up by someone who is a step or two ahead of
him.

Julia's husband, you see, was a urologist --- the final insult,
from Carl's viewpoint --- and not a very good one. He accordingly
needed other ways of supplementing his income, one of which
involved a Russian mobster named Gregor Trocek. And who does Trocek
believe has his money? If you guessed Victor Carl, it doesn't mean
you're peeking ahead. Carl must extricate himself out from under
the veil of suspicion for murder and somehow reunite Trocek with
his long-lost money. Luckily, Carl has some assistance from an
unlikely source but is caught between Trocek, the law (and some
police officers who want very badly to arrest him), and Julia, who
may be the most dangerous factor of all.

Lashner is incapable of writing badly, and the way that he has
handled Carl's subtle deterioration over the course of several
novels has been masterful. In addition, he concludes A KILLER'S
KISS with an acknowledgment containing a metaphor that is as good
as anything he has ever written. Given his continuous upward
trajectory, it is hard to escape the feeling that, as good as A
KILLER'S KISS and his other books have been, Lashner's best work
may still be ahead of him.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011

A Killer's Kiss
by William Lashner

  • Publication Date: August 28, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow
  • ISBN-10: 0061143464
  • ISBN-13: 9780061143465