As a top private eye turned security specialist, Jamie Sinclair has worked hard to put her broken marriage behind her. But when her lying, cheating ex-husband, army colonel Tim Thorp, calls with the news that his three-year-old daughter has been kidnapped, he begs Jamie to come find her. For the sake of the child, Jamie knows she can’t refuse. Now, despite the past, she’ll do everything in her power to bring little Brooke Thorp home alive.
Soon Jamie is back at Fort Leeds—the army base in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens where she grew up, the only child of a two-star general—chasing down leads and forging an uneasy alliance with the stern military police commander and the exacting FBI agent working Brooke’s case. But because Jamie’s father is now a U.S. senator, her recent run-in with a disturbed stalker is all over the news, and when she starts receiving gruesome threats echoing the stalker’s last words, she can’t shake the feeling that her investigation may be about more than a missing girl—and that someone very powerful is hiding something very significant . . . and very sinister.
The Kill List, Nichole Christoff’s debut thriller, is a gritty and entertaining mystery and I had a blast reading it. I loved its lead character Jamie Sinclair and her main co-stars Lieutenant Colonel Adam Barrett and FBI Agent Kevin Jaeger. The chemistry between Jamie and Barrett in particular was wonderful. Yet there was also one big thing that bugged me about the narrative and while it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story, I did find myself pondering it while thinking about it after I finished the book. Discussing it here might be considered a spoiler for an aspect of the book – I don’t think it impacts on the mystery, so much as on character development – but in any case, be aware the next paragraph might be slightly spoilery!
The thing that bothered me so much was Jamie’s infertility. Not the fact that Jamie is unable to bear children. Nor that this is incredibly painful for her, because she does want children, and that it broke up her marriage, but the fact that it is used as her motivation in the cases she will or won’t accept and the decisions she makes regarding her love life. And of course, the fact that her infertility has been used to make her feel a failure by some very important people in her life. She blames herself for the break-up of her marriage, because she feels it was caused by her infertility, not by the fact that her ex is a borderline abusive boor. Shouldn’t Jamie, or any woman be more than her reproductive status? Perhaps this is exactly the point Christoff was trying to make, but I found myself very conflicted by the way the issue was focussed on, even if Christoff depicts Jamie’s feelings and sadness very compellingly and I really felt deeply for Jamie and empathised with her.
That issue aside, I really enjoyed The Kill List. Jamie is a fun protagonist, who is very capable at her job, and is genuinely kick-ass. At the same time, she has some major issues, ones that I found interesting, even if problematic (see above) and I liked that she was forced to deal with some of them head on in this novel. Not only does she have to face the ex-husband who left her broken up, she also has to deal with the cold-hearted father, who chose his side over hers. Yet there is also some more pleasant things on the horizon for Jamie, like Lt. Col. Adam Barrett. Jamie and Barrett have amazing chemistry between her and Barrett and I really liked the way their relationship evolved. Christoff depicts them as mature, adult people, who both have a past and the accompanying baggage, yet they both recognise a good thing when they see it. I loved Barrett, I thought he was an interesting character beyond his love interest status. His past experiences, especially those while serving overseas and the events of what happened when he returned, have shaped him and not always for the better, yet he is a good man. One character I really hope we’ll learn more of in future books is Jamie’s assistant Matty. An army veteran, he was a fun character and I really wanted to know more about how he and Jamie got to know each other and what his story was.
Christoff’s focus on PTSD and the effects tours of duty have on the military and their families was fascinating and quite heartbreaking. We often learn about the times when it goes wrong explosively, but we rarely learn about the cases where people really struggle with PTSD, are hurt by it, but find a way through together, perhaps not always to a happily ever after, but at least to a semi-normal life. Another aspect she highlights is that of those who are left behind briefing when a soldier loses their life on the battle field, their anger and grief, and their need to know why and whether their loved one’s death had meaning. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to lose someone that way, but I think Christoff conveyed the emotions well.
The Kill List’s plot was interesting. There were in fact not one case but three and they all connect in unexpected ways. There were some tightly knotted twists in the story and while one character didn’t surprise me with his duplicity, the way he was connected to the case was very, very surprising. I also liked how Jamie’s prejudices and memories of both her ex and the base where she grew up, colour her judgement and serve both as a help and a hindrance in the investigation.
I really had a good time with The Kill List and I am very much looking forward to the second Jamie Sinclair book. I can’t wait to discover how things develop between Jamie and Barrett. If you like your mystery sautéed with a good helping of romance, The Kill List is definitely one to check out.
A Fantastical Librarian is just one of the stops on this blog tour. Please visit the other stops for different views on the book, author guest posts and giveaways.
Tuesday, November 25th: The Book Binder’s Daughter
Friday, November 28th: Nightly Reading
Monday, December 1st: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Tuesday, December 2nd: Bell, Book & Candle
Wednesday, December 3rd: Omnimystery News – guest post
Thursday, December 4th: CiCi’s Theories
Friday, December 5th: Reading to Distraction
Monday, December 8th: Read and Shelved
Tuesday, December 9th: Mom in Love with Fiction
Wednesday, December 10th: Book Nerd
Thursday, December 11th: Back Porchervations
Monday, December 15th: From the TBR Pile
Tuesday, December 16th: Booked on a Feeling
Wednesday, December 17th: A Fantastical Librarian
Friday, December 19th: Tales of a Book Addict
TBD: Queen of All She Reads
TBD: Annabel and Alice