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The Kills: Sutler, The Massive, The Kill, and The Hit Hardcover – August 5, 2014

2.6 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* War is hell. It’s also big business. And, in this remarkable, epic literary venture, a novel in four parts that was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, House explores the collateral damage of our capitalist way of going to war. In “Sutler,” a civilian working in Southern Iraq under a false name, Sutler, for a Halliburton-like contractor (HOSCO) is told to disappear; he understands he’s being scapegoated for embezzlement but has no idea of the scale. In “The Massive,” at a site where HOSCO’s waste is burned with complete disregard for workers’ health, Sutler arrives to begin planning a city that will never be built. “The Kill” is a story about a student’s murder in Naples, told in multiple outsider viewpoints, the basis for a book within the book that recurs enigmatically throughout The Kills. And “The Hit” shows the endgame, as multiple sightings of Sutler confuse the embezzler’s attempts to contain the damage from the theft. Part Olen Steinhauer spy thriller and part Roberto Bolaño art novel, with a huge cast of characters, many Middle Eastern settings, and a puzzle of a time-shifting plot, The Kills is a work of intense artistic conviction and demands a serious commitment from its readers. They’ll be rewarded, even if the center of this dazzlingly large picture is elusive. After all, for men chasing money in the desert, perspective may just be another mirage. --Keir Graff


“A symphony in four distinct novel-length movements….Perfect for folks whose idea Thanksgiving or Christmas breaks involve curling up with a fat, rewarding read.” ―Passport

The Kills challenges what a thriller can be…Despite the influence of Roberto Bolaño's 2666, Sutler calls the protagonist of another open-ended epic to mind: Tyrone Slothrop of Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, a character who disappears from the book but whose presence can be felt on every page. The Kills has similar goals as Gravity's Rainbow: to expose the greed and corruption that thrives in the economy of war. House may not have written a conventional thriller, but The Kills is a thrilling work of art by a writer at the top of his game.” ―Jim Ruland, Los Angeles Times

“One-word review: Wow.” ―Susannah Cahalan, New York Post

The Kills offers up all the suspense and violence of a thriller, but House's tetralogy is much more than an exciting story.” ―Tulsa World

The Kills is in part a comprehensive, Tom Wolfe-esque plunge into the underworld of military contracting. It's also a shrewd, globe-trotting thriller in the vein of John le Carré...Reading it will make quick work of a cross-country flight or a weekend at the beach.” ―Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

“A long read, and worth every minute....House's brilliant structure allows him to maintain maximum suspense while following his characters and ideas across a vast moral, political, and philosophical landscape. (The effect is not unlike Roberto Bolaño's in 2666, an inspiration for The Kills.) The novel is ambitious, expansive, beautifully written, and gripping, with intimations of danger shimmering behind even the simplest gesture. Imagine Philip Petit walking a tightrope across the Grand Canyon. The Kills is that dazzling.” ―NPR.org

“Huge and hugely ambitious...House is one of the few British writers taking on the challenge of constructing a literary novel through the prism of a crime novel...House creates a surreal, Mesopotamian Catch-22...The Kills, with its ambition, linguistic stylization, and global reach, is exactly the kind of novel the Booker Prize (and the reading public) needs.” ―Los Angeles Review of Books

“The thousand-page novel you'll actually want to read...Richard House's THE KILLS comprises four separate novels--addictive, interlocking thrillers that echo the political intrigue of Graham Greene and the innovative structures of Roberto Bolaño....There's a summer's worth of white-knuckle page turning here, but you'll probably need only a week.” ―Details

“Criminally entertaining.” ―Vanity Fair

The Kills is not a typical thriller, but it has the pace and energy associated with the genre and it's already being compared to the work of John le Carre....House has taken a familiar form and made it fresh....Richly detailed, evocative prose.” ―Out

“This is the kind of book that classics are made off.” ―Amos Lassen, ReviewsByAmosLassen.com

The Kills is a hugely ambitious and mesmerizing work, fresh and entertaining. Richard House is the real deal.” ―Olen Steinhauer, New York Times-bestselling author of The Tourist and An American Spy

“This is a staggering achievement....Highly recommended.” ―Daily Mail (London)

“Remarkable...Part Olen Steinhauer spy thriller and part Roberto Bolaño art novel...The Kills is a work of intense artistic conviction and demands a serious commitment from its readers. They'll be rewarded.” ―Booklist

“Engrossing…House's four-part, 1,000-page novel of corruption and murder is a heady page-turner. Already a hit in the U.K., The Kills trots the globe with professional killers and military contractors, and earns its comparisons to John le Carré with a healthy dose of political intrigue.” ―Matthew Love, Time Out New York

“Richard House's ambitious espionage novel, inspired by Roberto Bolano's 2666 and Zola's Les Rougon-Macquart, is comprised of four tightly linked books….It all adds up to an astonishing saga.” ―Jane Ciabattari, BBC.com

“A sprawling, subterranean, sometimes-surreal novel of the new world order, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, in which Bolaño and Pynchon wave in passing as we dodge between IEDs and sinister plots....Ambitious and often brilliant.” ―Kirkus Reviews

The Kills...takes you on a hell of a ride.” ―The Daily Telegraph (London)

The Kills by Richard House: The second section of this four-part novel is callexd 'The Massive'; it's a title that could have stood for the whole. House's sprawling quadruple-decker, longlisted for the Booker Prize, is a literary thriller set against the background of the Iraq War.” ―Garth Risk Halberg, The Millions' Most Anticipated Books of 2014

“Richard House has written a damn good book....The Kills is possibly the most eyebrow-raising entry on this year's Booker longlist....He is not your average novelist, but is also a filmmaker, artist, and magazine editor....If this all seems hifalutin, rest assured: The Kills is still all about spinning a good yarn.” ―The Sunday Times (London)

“A gigantic experiment, bracing, thrilling and worthy of a medal for narrative heroism, Richard House's four-volume The Kills plays an epic set of variations on the shadow war for loot and influence behind the chaos of Iraq.” ―Boyd Tonkin, The Independent (London), Books of the Year

“The novel I enjoyed most was Richard House's sensational pile-driver, The Kills.” ―Philip Hensher, The Guardian (London), Best Books of the Year

“Richard House's The Kills was the novel that impressed me most: a terrific unbuckled ride through global and intimate catastrophes, blood and billions.” ―Philip Hensher, The Spectator (London), Best Books of the Year


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1024 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (August 5, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250052432
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250052438
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 2.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #785,401 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Richard House's Booker-longlisted "The Kills" is a collection of four related books, originally published in e-book format between February and June 2013. In some ways, the e-book format is the natural habitat for House's creation as it includes a largely optional multi-media component to the story. It is a hugely ambitious piece about money, murder, greed, stories and where things start and equally where, if ever, they end. Covering more countries than feature in Michael Palin's passport, the book starts with corruption and embezzlement in a US civilian company working in the re-building of Iraq, and ends with a kind of "Tales of the Unexpected" story in Cyprus having taken in a gruesome story of murder in Naples.

Before getting to the conventional book element of the project, it's worth covering the multi-media component. While I have not seen the e-versions I assume that the suggested points for watching or listening to the various elements is noted in the text, whereas with the hard copy, this is not the case. It is pointed out that the multi-media elements can be watched entirely separately, or not at all, as they are not in any way necessary to the story. In fact, they tend to fill in background stories of the characters. It's not the first book I've seen to introduce a multi-media element but the quality of the short films in particular is of the highest class. They would not look out of place in an installation in the Tate Modern. House also largely avoids the trap of giving either images or audio to characters - mostly but not entirely the narrative element is told in sub titles in the films - which can detract from the reading experience in the same way that films of much loved books are usually disappointing as they don't fit with our mental images.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Long-listed for the Booker Award, Richard House's The Kills is an epic crime thriller which consists of four short related novels totaling over a thousand pages. It begins and ends with novels about the character Sutler, who is accused of stealing $53 million from a corrupt millitary contractor. The company, HOSCO, furnishes auxiliary services for the military, in this case, in Iraq. Sutler finds himself the " patsy" in a cunning embezzlement scheme ending in a power play to reorganize the massive company and replace the leadership. However, Sutler, a scapegoat, becomes a fugitive on the run. The second book, entitled The Massive explores the subject of how the victims of HOSCO'S exploitation and violence, set themselves up for their fate, horrible deaths of cancer. The third book, The Kill, is largely set in Naples, In that book, the tone changes,becomes more shadowy and fantastical. The book's story is only superficially linked through a symbol on a victim's shirt and a novel he was reading which involves a copycat killer. The fourth book, The Hit, is concerned with a professional killer who begins to question his own motives. It serves to generally tie up some of the loose ends. As the book evolves there is a blurring of reality and myth-making, so that the crimes are wrapped in layers of story-telling, with varying degrees of authenticity. There are dozens of interrelated characters, all of whom are well developed. Despite the book's length, it is straight forwardly written and riveting enough to keep you reading for long periods so that before you know, you've covered a couple of hundred pages. I found it a bit disconcerting to switch from the first and second books, to the third, which seems only tangentially related to the central story. I think this serves to slow down the over-all action. On the whole, if you are a mystery buff, you will do well to invest your time in this book. It is destined to become a classic..
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is one of the most ambitious thrillers I've ever read. It was long-listed for the Booker prize last year and is actually four shorter novels that make up the whole narrative which is broad in scope. It is essentially about how big business went to war in Iraq as much as our government did and what conflicts of interest and corruption can arise, Halliburton often came to my mind. There is a tragic bombing and a scapegoat on the run as well a revolving cast of very well drawn characters across several continents. Some characters pop up briefly only to return later. The action goes back and forth in time giving the different and interesting viewpoints of the main characters on the same events which gives us more of the clever plot. One must be on one's toes to keep up but it is entertaining and suspenseful as a whole. The best novel in the group and that most able to stand on it's own is The Kill. It is available separately in paperback if you are reluctant to commit to such a long piece. It is a vivid and richly imagined story within a story documenting the re-creation of a grisly murder set in the crime-ridden streets of Naples.
While the author is British, many of the characters are American but use a vernacular that is sometimes distinctly British, but it doesn't detract from the quality of the piece as a whole. This is definitely my favorite Summer read and I am glad that I waited until it was available on kindle as a whole piece in the U.S..
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Format: Kindle Edition
"The Kills" is one of the most gripping books I have ever read. It is also one of the most unusual.
Don't expect it to be a common every day thriller, don't expect it to be an easy read, this is no James Patterson. The volume comprises four separate books; characters pop up and and then vanish, not to be heard from again for hundreds of pages. There are also loads of characters who come and go through out the four books.
I suspect that the negative reviews were written by readers who expected a traditional thriller.
Richard House: you have written a masterpiece, and I look forward to your next book.
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